“Full Speed” Album Review

It was nearly a year ago that Kid Ink dropped the album “My Own Lane” which had the hit singles “Show Me” and “Main Chick.”  Both songs are still getting played on the radio but Kid Ink must believe in striking while the iron is hot, because he has prepared his newest album “Full Speed.”   Kid Ink’s appeal to the listeners nowadays is reminiscent of Fabolous years back.  He makes club music that attracts the females but at the same time, the hard knocks don’t mind blasting  it out of their car speakers.  Lyrically, Kid Ink is clever but it’s more about his delivery and personality that sell the records he’s on.


It’s evident that Kid Ink is looking to duplicate the radio success he had with “My Own Lane.”  With guest appearances galore, it seems Ink and his album’s budget are banking on a nice return – both monetarily and back on the charts.   The problem in doing so, is that almost every song sounds like a sequel to “Main Chick” or “Show Me.”  R. Kelly makes a feature on “Dolo” where both he and Kid Ink predictably rhyme “dolo” with “solo”  twice on the same record and the song has them both approaching girls asking if they are alone for the night – which ultimately makes no difference when Ink says things like “Sayin’ that you came here dolo / Probably  got a man, I’m a act like I don’t know though.”

There is only more of the  same with the Usher feature on “Body Language” which sounds like an old Murder Inc track from the Ja Rule/Ashanti days; and Chris Brown reunites with Kid Ink on the track “Hotel” which actually plays off of the Ma$e song “Lookin’ At Me.”  On “Hotel” Kid Ink tries to get his side chick to leave with him and his main chick to the hotel for a three some, but one would have to question the type of girl who messes with a guy who’s game goes something like this: “It ain’t a problem, my metabolism high / Eat you both up for dinner / Just keep it real with a real motherf*cka / Ain’t got time for no pretenders.”  Yeah, smooth.


Kid Ink actually shines more on the tracks where he’s just rapping freely and riding drum tracks with ease.  On “Be Real” produced by DJ Mustard, Ink flows with confidence: “B*tch I’m a boss like Gotti / Rock Tom Ford and I still pop Molly / Roll up good Cali, LadiDadi / It’s just me and all my homies at your door like the Shining.”  “Cool Back” is another track where Kid Ink’s personality shines but the track itself sounds too reminiscent of YG’s hit record “Who Do You Love,”  which at least shows if Kid Ink is to get another hit, he’ll do it sounding like himself of just about anybody. . .

Even when Ink does well on songs, he tends to get out-shined.  On the song “About Mine” there is no doubt what-so-ever Trey Songz owns this record from start to finish.  At the end of “About Mine” it’s easy to forget that Ink was even on the track. . .  Ink decides to go back and forth with MGK on “Show Must Go On” and although he drops a couple of gems on it – MGK eats this track alive with his violent delivery: “I’m a sinner I know/ Maybe that’s why there’s a fire every city I go / Maybe I’m a just retire and become a supplier / Cause I’m already buying all the f*ckin’ weed ya’ll grow.”  The chorus is sung by Matt Allen and helps complete this track as the standout on the album.  Unfortunately Kid Ink doesn’t stand out once on his own on this release.

Kid Ink has some musical abilities, the energy and the character but he needs to step back for a second and step out of his comfort zone for a while.  He can’t hang with the lyrical heavyweights and his concepts have been done to death.

Rating 5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio


“Tetsuo and Youth” Album Review

Lupe Fiasco has had an interesting ride in his career.  In the early goings he was looked upon by many to be “the next big thing.”  He is without a doubt one of the more lyrical rappers of the last decade and has a confident approach on the microphone.   He has worked with the best in the industry and has been grammy nominated multiple times but for some reason Lupe seems to be lost in the shuffle.  Mostly of his own doing.


Lupe has been politically outspoken and has been critical of the hip hop community as a whole.  At times he comes off preachy while other times he comes off as if he doesn’t care if you understand what he’s trying to tell you.  On “Tetsuo and Youth” Lupe runs through tales of growing up, the streets and knowledge of self.   Lupe is an intellectual wordsmith and likes to flex his skills as often as possible.

After the albums intro comes a lyrical onslaught called “Mural,” a nearly nine minute song where Lupe runs straight through the beat with no hook delivering rapid word play with lines like: “Reign like queens that reign over made men / And not Queen like Queen killer, rhapsody bohemian Queen / But Queen like white glove wave hand / and not wave hand like it’s a heat wave/ so you make a fan by waving your hand / I’m talking wave like you sayin’ ‘hey . . .man’ / not hay for horses and hoarse like you almost voiceless / you gotta treat your vocal chords like it’s a fortress.”  


The song “Dots and Lines” which opens with a cool banjo solo is Lupe’s warning (or self tale) of being wary of signing your signature on any contract’s dotted line.  He equates it to selling your soul “ To make gold from garbage is not the alchemical point of this math / Truth be told it’s the pursuit of gold that turns the goals of men into trash/ The soul’s gold and they turning gold to cash / and your reflection is your connection to more collections of more directions and paths.”  Lupe’s tone is not one of being “preachy” on “Testuo and Youth”, but more like “listen if you wanna learn something. ”

Lupe takes an interesting concept of taking the Virgin Mary’s plight and comparing it to single mother’s raising their son’s in bad situations.  For many this concept may come out forced and stretched, but Lupe – ever the song writer – delivers three short verses with each line getting to the point.   He does something similar on the album’s single “Deliver” in which he playfully describes how the pizza man won’t come to his neighborhood to deliver any food because of the surrounding conditions.  The “pizza man” isn’t the focus of the song though – Lupe details everything about his neighborhood that makes it avoidable for most :”The ghetto was  a physical manifestation / Of hate in a place where ethnicity determines your placement / a place that defines your station / remind you n*ggas your place is the basement.” 

Lupe speaks to younger folks in this “selfie-era” who are trying to grow up too fast on “Adoration of the Magi”.  He paints the picture that the best thing you have is your youth and innocents so there is no reason to rush to be an adult and all that comes with it.  Within “Adoration” Lupe delivers his most remarkable set of bars on the album: “You not the first person / the first person from your first cursin’ / to your first cursive / and your curse words is in the curve version / it occurs virgin is the word version / that refers perfect to the first person in the third verse, who’s really me / In the third person but prefers the first one, that’s me again.”  Wrap your head around that one.

The problem with the album is the lack of a high point.  Although the production is good it’s the same vibe on every track.  There is a lot of self-indulgence on the part of Lupe and the album is actually difficult to get through without becoming bored or losing complete focus.  Tracks like “No Scratches” which details trying to get out of a bad relationship and “Little Death” which has “Preachy Lupe” back in full form talking about religion and politics – make it easy for one to get bored with.  Once again it’s not the message that’s boring just the overall presentation.


Even “Blur My Hands” which features Guy Sebastian falls way short of their last collaboration “Battle Scars.”  The hook is corny and no matter how many times you play it back, you end up losing interest half way through.   “Chopper” is a track that has no place on this album as it’s a nine minute posse track with six rappers one can care less about (Glasses Malone, anyone?. . .)

This album is difficult to break down because lyrically, Lupe has not lost a thing.  His concepts are on point and his persona is evident and honest – the album’s production although creative becomes too repetitive and laid back.   If there were more tracks like “Prisoner 1 and 2” which was produced by MoeZ’art.  The track uses a simple piano loop accompanied with strings and escalates with a more violent string arrangement when the beat switches up.  The song itself has Lupe once again masterful with his wordplay describing how the jail system itself is corrupt and how these conditions do nothing for the sake of rehabilitation: “They made electric chairs for his dying days / last meals, no appeals for him to try and stay / On Death Row like Suge and the late Pac / Maybe he can dig a tunnel out of A Block / And wear gloves for the razor-wired gate top / Scared thugs going crazy in a caged box.” 

“Tetsuo and Youth” separates Lupe from the masses in terms of talent and although lyrically it is hard to find flaws in what he does, the overall feel of Tetsuo is one that can be unfortunately easily forgotten.  If Lupe had the production of his “Lasers” album, combined with the concept of this album – it could’ve been something really special.

Rating 7 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


How To Play the Super Bowl Prop Bets

The Super Bowl is not only the biggest sports day of the year.  It is an unofficial American Holiday, a gathering of friends and family and also for all things considered, the end of “betting season” for many.  Whether it’s a blessing or not is the gambler’s issue – but the Super Bowl is the last time for many to cash in, feel the rush or hand their money over to their bookee one last time.  Vegas is aware of this and that is why “prop bets” were created.

Coin Toss:

All of the coin toss props are 50/50 and it’s a quick way to lose or make your money right at the start of the Super Bowl.  Heads or tails, which team will call heads or tails, will the team who wins the coin toss win the game, etc, etc.  If you have to get your early fix and bet on the coin toss, ride with history.  In the Super Bowl, Seattle is 2-0 in winning the coin toss while New England has only won the coin toss twice in seven trips to the big game.

Will There Be Three Unanswered Scores by Any Team:

This one is interesting because the line on YES is -200 and NO is +160.  Without giving away a Super Bowl prediction just yet, this game will be close.  The -1 line on the game itself (favoring Seattle) is proof enough that Vegas does not see any one of these teams running away with the game.  “NO” is the bet on this one.  Easily.


Will Richard Sherman Record A Interception:

This prop bet is tailor made for those who know the name of Richard Sherman but do not know the game of football.  In 16 regular season games Sherman had 4 interceptions but in the playoffs he has 2 interceptions in two games.  Both of those picks weren’t necessarily great plays by Sherman, but really a bad throw by Cam Newton and an uncharacteristically bad throw/read by Aaron Rodgers.  Sherman will be dealing with a Patriots offense that has had two weeks to prepare and game plan for him – oh, and Tom Brady is one of the leagues most annoyingly accurate perfectionist when it comes to in game execution.  The YES on this bet is at +195 while the NO is at         -250.  The  easy money is on the bigger bet, risk 250 for every hundred and laugh at the losers who will bet on Sherman because of his soup and headphone commercials.

Total Tackles + Assists by Kam Chancellor:


The over/under for this prop is set at 6.5 (over -155/under +105).  Kam Chancellor is an absolute animal.  The Patriots are no doubt going to try to soften up and find a crease within the tough D Line of the Seahawks and there is no doubt that Kam Chancellor will be called upon to navigate that line of scrimmage more than a few times. Aside from the running game, expect Kam to be dealing with Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the field.  Gronk is Brady’s favorite target and Chancellor is the kind of monster, competitively that wants to be the one to lay him out one on one.  The Pats use the middle of the field with their tight ends and (a-hem) eligible lineman so Kam will get many opportunities to get that tackle number way above 6.  Take the gamble and risk 155 units to win your easy 100.

Which Song Will Katy Perry Begin The Halftime Show With: 

Of course we have to talk some Katy Perry.  The odds for this one go like this: Firework 3/2; Roar 3/2; This is How We Do 5/1; Dark Horse 12/1; E.T. 12/1; Wide Awake 12/1; and Waking Up In Vegas 20/1.   Automatically eliminate Waking Up In Vegas because most people have forgotten about that song.  ET was  a hit but even then we’re talking some years back – The Songstress Perry is all about keeping things fresher.  Firework will no doubt be performed but that seems more like a closing song – TV-wise – this song was the highlight of her 2010 performance for Victoria Secrets.  Dark Horse may be too slow to kick off something as exciting as a halftime show should be which leaves three more: Wide Awake, This Is How We Do and Roar.   Wide Awake might be a song that would be on the edge of not even being heard, so that leaves Roar and This is How We Do.  Most would put money down on both but go for the longer shot and the safer start up song in “This Is How We Do.”  It still has some relevancy so it’s a safe bet.


The Game Itself

No, this isn’t a “prop” bet but it’s the most important bet of the day.  As of now, Vegas has the Seattle Seahawks as a one point favorite over the New England Patriots.   The talk has been the Seahawks defense versus the Patriots offense – but folks should flip that around.  For all the fan fare that Russell Wilson gets, this Seahawks offense is a run first and run dominant offense, they are far from a juggernaut (although Marshawn Lynch represents the Marvel Comic villain of the same name at times).   Bill Belichik is one of the greatest coaches of all time and his integrity has been called into question because of “Deflate Gate.”  The Hood has had two weeks to get that defensive mind of his wrapped around this run heavy offense.  This WILL-NOT be a repeat of last year and the Seahawks are not set to repeat either.  Take the Patriots here at +1 and enjoy your Super Bowl viewing party.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“American Beauty / American Psycho” Album Review

The roots of Fall Out Boy originally labeled them as rock.  Punk rock with an emo twist really.  Now-a-days it’s hard to call them anything less than a commercial rock band.  A successful commercial rock band.    On the surface they look like Good Charlotte, but come with the musical sophistication of Linkin Park accompanied by melodies which are similar to Maroon 5’s.  Fall Out Boy has been pretty consistent in laying out hit records since 2005 with titles such as “Dance, Dance” “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” and “My Songs Know What You Did in The Dark.”  They have found a way to make their music not just appealing to radio but also to television and film.

1 Fall-Out-Boy-900-6001_0

“American Beauty / American Psycho” is Fall Out Boy’s sixth album and the lead single “Centuries” is still getting burn since being released early in 2014’s fourth quarter.   “Centuries” is now certified platinum and has been used a ton for sports advertisements.  The song’s lyrics are perfect for that sort of stage as the chorus says: “Some legends are told / Some turn dust to gold / But you will remember me / Remember me for centuries.”  The commercial appeal on “Centuries” not only has the catchy chorus, accompanied by an aggressive backing track – but also contains a sample of the familiar melody carried by the Suzanne Vega song “Tom’s Diner.”

The uptempo commercial rock onslaught definitely doesn’t stop there.

The horns used on “Irresistible” accompanied by a “Michael Jackson-kind” of cadence in delivery by lead singer Patrick Stump are a nice combination.  In true Fall Out Boy form, the song builds up to a strong chorus and gives a stadium feel with it’s easy to follow melody and chants.  The song itself deals with a tumultuous relationship that one can’t let go of as he says “I love the way you hurt me baby.”

The album’s title track is the second single and is a little more chaotic than most tracks on “American Beauty / American Psyhco.”  It has more of a punk element to it, mixed with a modern day dance feel.   This one may be a little to aggressive to reach the commercial longevity of “Centuries” but none-the-less gets the job done and adds a different sound to the album.


Fall Out Boy has a tendency to not get out of their zone much – which happens to those with consistent commercial success.  The formula is pretty evident.  As noted earlier – they love using these “chant like” routines in their songs which work well when playing live and do the job for “sticking in one’s” head.   The production of the album is on point throughout, and even on some of the album’s low points like “Fourth of July” “Immortals” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright” the guitar work, drum play and sample usage are all done well.  “The Kids Aren’t Alright” falls short of the success and over-all quality of the Offspring song with the same title and is one of the few songs that never really reaches a “high point.”

“Novocaine” has a spoken bass line reminiscent of Kanye’s “Black Skinhead” but much like “Jet Pack Blues” some of the lyrics are just indecipherable in terms of understanding the “point.”  This works for and against Fall Out Boy – which may ultimately help them in the long run.  Usually in commercial music the lyrics are simple enough for a second grader to follow, Fall Out Boy at least hasn’t lost their creative integrity within their commercial success – they are just continuing what’s been working for them.

Everything comes together perfectly on the track “Uma Thurman” which samples the theme song from the Adam’s Family and seemingly plays an ode to the actress and her infamous dance scene in the movie “Pulp Fiction.”   The song itself sounds like a drug-induced frenzy on the dance floor and weirdly enough can still work it’s way to give the listener that “get up when you’re beat down” feeling which is the over-all feel of every Fall Out Boy record.  The lyrics in the chorus build well with piano and hand claps: “I can move mountains / I can work a miracle, work a miracle / Oh, oh, I keep you like an oath / May nothing but death, do, us, part.” 


Sometimes the guitar work gets lost in all of the production and even “over-production,” but the musical talent of Fall Out Boy cannot be denied.  For all that’s labeled as “commercial” there comes a notion that there is a lack of “talent” and that’s not the case with F.O.B.   What would be nice, is to see them risk this commercial appeal and take their music to the next level, because they have the potential to create a sound even better than what they have presented to the masses already.  On “American Beauty / American Psycho,” Fall Out Boy doesn’t disappoint their fan-base as they continue to be who they are.  They won’t change things up until the masses become  tired of their routine – but until then, they will keep all the chants and heavy chorus’ coming.

Rating 7 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Uptown Special” Album Review

It’s been five years since Mark Ronson released a studio album but that doesn’t mean the DJ/Producer/Singer/Musician has been laying low doing nothing.   He has put his production onto albums by Lil’ Wayne, Paul McCartney and Lana Del Rey – to name a few.   His resume is packed with names like Nas, Wale, Adele and even the late Amy Winehouse.

Ronson is more than a “DJ for the stars,”  he’s a grammy nominated producer who’s been putting in work since the late ’90s.   On his newest effort “Uptown Special” – Ronson, continues to ride the vibes of funk, dance and pop music while collaborating with various artists along the way.


The lead single “Uptown Funk” features Bruno Mars and for those who are in the mood to feel a little nostalgic, the song has a similar feel to “Jungle Love” by Morris Day and the Time.   Bruno Mars is in his element on this track as his suave personality pulls off slick lyrics like: “This hit, that ice water / Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold . . . Livin’ it up in the city / Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent, Gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty.” The hit is infectious and once again the combination of Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars strikes gold.

Unfortunately, Bruno does not make another appearance on the album – and the rest of the songs on this album sound like “something else.”


“I Can’t Lose” sounds like a combination of “Square Biz” by Teena Marie and “Love Come Down” by Evelyn King.  The vocals, which are done by Keyone Starr, are actually on point and it would’ve been nice to hear her again on this album and singing a melody that was a little more original but neither happens on “Uptown Special. ”

Some songs on the album are just mixed down awkwardly and the lyrics sung on the songs are at times unrecognizable.  After a few attempts at trying to understand the words to “Daffodils,” the listener will just ultimately give up and skip the track.  Kevin Parker’s voice on the song is just too light and served up with too much reverb and echo to be fully understood.   The same thing occurs with Kevin Parker once again on the track “Leaving Los Feliz” which goes nowhere anywhere and has sprinkles of a distorted guitar which is seemingly placed at the wrong spots and makes Parker’s words even that much more difficult to understand during the chorus.

The Jeff Bhasker feature on “In Case of Fire” is all kinds of bad.  The music is unoriginal and the lyrics are just corny: “Break glass, don’t you look back, in case of fire/ Escape plan: Grab what you can, in case of fire.”  The song talks about a break up at the hands of a cold-chick, but it seems like the cold chick may be a bad weekend in Vegas or a drug binge gone bad. . .

There is a weak attempt to re-create a James Brown feel on “Feel Right” featuring Mystikal.  Mystikal hasn’t been around for a while and he reminds us that the world was a better place without him, “Calling all cars in here for the Prince of the South / Kill all that yabba-dabba-doo-sh*t, I just got out!. . . You gon’ mess around and make me knock your fruit juice loose / Ya banana, ya watermelon and pomegranate too.”  Ugh, please stop.


Andrew Wyatt’s feature on “Heavy and Rolling” gives a smooth soothing feeling like a summer night’s drive over a bridge with the windows down.  The reverb/echo feature works well for once on this record during the song’s bridge and the use of guitars over the chorus work perfectly over relaxing drum pattern.

The album is less than 40 minutes long so at least  “Uptown Special” doesn’t drive you from being bored to being frustrated while listening.  For a talented producer like Ronson, one expects more originality and not “his version” of cover songs.  “Uptown Special” is more like “Karaoke Night at the Ronson Lounge,” but hey, at least there’s some cool harmonica being played by the great Stevie Wonder on the album’s outro.  So yeah, there’s that too. . .

Album Rating: 4 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

The Issue With Russell Wilson

When discussing quarterbacks in the NFL, there are two things people need to STOP doing.

1 – Stop issuing “wins” and “losses” to quarterbacks.  This includes Super Bowl wins, playoff wins, come from behind wins – all of them.   Offensive linemen never get credit for keeping their quarterbacks untouched in final drives, wide receivers are the ones making the catches the quarterbacks throw out there and running backs, more times than not, pick up blitzing corners and handle a lot of the dirty work in the trenches.   The quarterback did not win the game, the team did.  As cliche as that might sound it’s the truth.

2- Stop using the word “elite” when discussing quarterbacks.   This all goes back to the infamous Michael Kay radio interview with Eli Manning – and ever since then – the words “elite” have been tossed around like cuss words in a high school locker room.   The word “elite” has even gone hand in hand when trying to put Super Bowl winning quarterbacks into the “elite” class.  Joe Flacco.  Eli Manning.  Stop it.


Wins, playoff success and the word “elite” have all come into play with the Seahawks third year starter, Russell Wilson.  Wilson, is a likable fixture in an NFL where the loud-mouthed, off-season troubled issues of many have cast a dark cloud over the sport.  Wilson is an intelligent, quiet, well mannered kid, who says all the right things when the camera is on him.  He has been in the playoffs all three seasons, including a Super Bowl win and another trip to the big game this year.   Even then – the praise has gotten out of hand.

The reason why the word “elite” now holds no meaning is because it meant something and now means virtually nothing.  That class of quarterback should only be the guys who throw for 35-40 touchdowns, 4500-5000 yards and have a touchdown interception ration of at least 4:1.   Without those guys at that position, their team accomplishes nothing.    In his three seasons, Wilson has played a total of 48 games – in those 48 he has only thrown for 3 or more touchdowns six times in a game (never achieving that mark once this year.)  In the same span of games he has only thrown for over 300 yards four times in a game.  These are not the consistent numbers seen with the word “elite.”

“But he wins games,” is what those with no argument say.


Russell Wilson is the direct benefactor of being on one of the most talented squads in the NFL.   There is no question that no other team has been built better than Seattle’s in the last 4 years.   Wilson has benefited from a good offensive line and one of the most unstoppable forces at running back – Marshawn Lynch.  If there was ever an “elite running back” conversation – Lynch would be in the top three, without a doubt.  Not many other teams hand off to their running back on third and six situations – with confidence, none-the-less.  Defenses are forced to pack line-backers and/or safeties up on the line of scrimmage in order to stop this running game – leaving Russell Wilson many easy opportunities in the play-action game.

There is nothing wrong with Russell’s game, this is not an indictment on how well/bad he can play the game – but the credit that he is given is over-board.  Statistically  Russell Wilson’s numbers go neck in neck with the likes of Alex Smith (who many label a “game manager”), Derek Carr (rookie QB for the Raiders. . . yes the Oakland-Mess-Of-A-Franchise Raiders), Brian Hoyer (who played two less games and for Cleveland) and Andy Dalton (who gets crucified weekly for not being worth the money he’s signed to).   That’s the “elite” class Wilson’s numbers have him with.

“But his rushing yards, too. . .,” is the last thing those with no argument say.

This season he ran for over 800  yards, terrific.  Amazing.  Once again – let’s not give credit to the fact that half of those yards come off of play-action bootleg plays because defenses are concerned with stopping Marshawn Lynch and let’s also not mention that this receiving core does one thing extremely well – block on the outside.


The argument of Russell Wilson being ‘great’ is just over-blown.   Wilson is the piece that’s needed at the quarterback position for this team.  That’s all that needs to be said.  He is neither great, nor terrible.  Truthfully, we won’t ever really know how good Russell Wilson is until he is served up the hefty contract which everyone knows is coming his way.  The Seahawks reportedly want to offer Wilson a “record breaking contract” which will leave not much money to throw around.  The Seahawks are very cap savvy but for how long will Wilson remain as the NFL’s most storied game-manager without the league’s best defense backing him up and an absolute beast named Marshawn Lynch to lean on offensively.

Maybe, some folks just have the bar set low, when it comes to being “elite.”

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Sremmlife” Album Review

The youth movement in today’s hip hop has come under heavy scrutiny.  Most of it is unfair though.  “Old School vs New School” is a topic that will never go away in any genre of music.  Depending when you grew up and the sound that was popular during your adolescence all the way through your adult hood – that’s your bar for gauging what is and what is not good music.  Hip hop though has found itself in a weird place.  For most of it’s beginnings it was labeled as a “fad” and something that would “die out,” but quite the opposite has occurred.  Hip Hop is actually in some ways the new “pop” sound.   For an art form that is heralded for it’s “craft” of lyricism, flow and feel – lately there has been a flux of lazy, uninventive patterns presented by those in the hip hop forum.


Rae Sremmrud is the hip hop duo made up of two brothers from Mississippi, Slim Jimmy and Swae Lee.  They signed to producer Mike Will’s production company EarDrummers Entertainment.  The name Rae Sremmrud is Ear Drummers spelled backwards, and that’s where this weird journey through Stremmlife begins.

The album opens with “Lit Like Bic” which delivers a smooth intro to the rough ride which lays ahead.  There is a word called “articulation,” which the young duo needs to look up.  Articulation is the act of vocal expression; utterance or enunciation – and more times than not – Rae Srummrud sound as if they have  a mouthful of jawbreakers while speaking – or just like some young winos.  When the listener gets through their rough delivery, they hear gems like : “News life sh*t, test this cup / test this cup, do it for us / Four eyed, damn, I’m twisted bad, I can feel it / Aquafina water, go ahead and peel it.”  

It does not get much better with songs like “Unlock the Swag” which opens with it’s uneventful hook that repeats the title of the song 14 times.  This track along with the rest of the album, shows a heavy influence of the flow that Atlanta rapper Future has made famous.  Lyrics like “I blow, I lie, I chill, I swag / How much, cash do, I make, a day/ enough, to pray, enough for tax” make the feature by a mostly unknown Jace seem like a heaven send.


Rae Sremmund if anything is relatable to their young fan base with song concepts like “My X”  and “This Could Be Us.”  They play off the popular social media hashtag and meme of “This Could Be Us” in a playful manner, with piano stabs and a catchy melody in the chorus.   “My X” pits the two artist in a familiar and relatable juvenile predicament of throwing your success in the face of an ex-girlfriend.   Their obnoxious tone, actually works out well on that one.  The album’s best production and chorus appear on the track “Come Get Her.”  It has an R.Kelly-feel to the song and Swae Lee actually finishes the song on point: “Baby girl, what you think that we’re doin? / you gettin on my nerves with them questions, girl you know I’m tryna start a movement . . . out the blue, you actin’ brand new / Washington’s mean nothing to you / same way with us. . .” 

Unfortunately the three songs worth listening to play consecutively leaving a lot of opportunities for the listener to get bored or frustrated while viewing the album.

The single “No Type” makes no sense what-so-ever because the first two lines in the hook contradict the concept of the song: “I ain’t got no type / Bad b*tches is the only thing I like.” 

“Up Like Trump” and the album’s lead single “No Flex Zone” are more examples uneventful trash.  Even MikeWill Made It’s production becomes stale and predictable.   After the listener distinguishes the difference between Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy – it’s evident that Swae is more of the focal point.  He has the louder of the personalities, and handles most of the hooks and bridges.


A lot of what is wrong in hip hop today is found in Rae Sremmurd’s debut album.  It’s evident they’re all about girls and having fun – which at their age should be the topics – but that doesn’t mean it has to sound like total garbage.  Listening to “Sremmlife” is the equivalent of driving cross country while being forced to chew on tin foil.

Rating 2 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


Cam Newton’s Future: Your Move Panthers

In 2011 Cam Newton was drafted with the first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers and was given  a four year contract worth $22 million (with a signing bonus of $14 million).    In his rookie season, he made the Panthers “must watch TV” as he became the single most entertaining player in the league.  His larger than life personality, rare athletic attributes for someone his size and his versatility captivated fans young and old.   His sophomore season came with the ever infamous “slump” word propped at the back-end of it and even more than that, Cam was developing a reputation for being a diva, who cared more about SuperMan poses and advertisements than things that mattered in the game of football.


In his final two seasons though, Cam has worked more in the film room, reads defenses better and has become more of a leader on this Panthers team.  He has been under center for the Panthers for two consecutive division titles and playoff runs.  Sure, he still loves the camera and at times flashes some obnoxious antics on the field but the guy just enjoys what he’s doing.  That shouldn’t be a problem. Right?

The Carolina Panthers have never said outright that Cam was their “future” or their “franchise” quarterback.  Rumor mills start up every so often that management and / or coaches don’t see Cam as the guy who can elevate his play or be deserving of franchise QB money.

The pay scale for quarterbacks today is out of control.  Even nonsensical at times, but one thing is certain : If you want to build an offense – you better make sure you have a quarterback that fits it.  Cam brings a unique skill set, but has shown development in the departments that are needed in being a starting quarterback in the NFL.   Some teams have been looking for their quarterback forever – Carolina has a guy who can play another 6 or 7 years in this league and at best be a top-10 talent.

With one more year on his rookie contract, a year that will be up in the $14 million range – time is ticking for Carolina and Cam Newton.  Decisions have to be made.


If Carolina truly doesn’t believe that Cam Newton is their guy, they’d be smart to find a suitor for him, instead of letting him just walk away.  Here are three teams that might find it in their best interest to acquire Cam’s services.

1. New York Jets:  The Jets have a knack for having a top pick in a draft full of uncertainty in the first round.  With the sixth overall pick this year, the Jets have the option of being one of the teams in play for either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston.  Here we go again.  If recent history has showed us anything, it’s that the Jets have not been lucky when drafting their “quarterback of the future.”  Instead of taking another blind gamble, why not acquire the services of a playoff quarterback like Cam Newton.   Even trading the sixth overall pick for Cam (as long as he intends on signing long term with the Jets) is a smarter move than the aforementioned gamble.   If Cam is Super-Man, New York would definitely serve as his Metropolis.  After losing a personality like Rex Ryan’s, Cam Newton can fill the void and be the face of a franchise that desperately needs one.

2. Houston Texans: Maybe what Cam needs is a little southern comfort.  The Texans roster as a whole is better than the Indianapolis Colts’ yet what the Colts have that the Texans don’t is a quarterback. That’s the difference between first place and second in the AFC South right now.  The Texans are coached by Bill O’Brien who was so good in Penn State, even under heavy sanctions and a limited roster – he made quarterback Matt McGloin serviceable – and even developed him to be a back up QB in the NFL.  O’Brien works an offense that is run heavy to set up the big play – which fits right into Cam’s bag of tricks.  O’Brien is a disciplinary type of coach though and who knows if Cam is ready to shed his child-like antics yet. . .

3. St. Louis Rams:  Jeff Fisher can talk all he wants about Sam Bradford being his guy, but the truth is : Enough is enough with Sam Bradford.  Four years of being a starter has shown two seasons shortened by injury and two full seasons of a guy putting up average to okay numbers.  Bless the Rams souls for trying to work through Shaun Hill and Austin Davis as starting quarterbacks but the truth is, they need someone now.  Their defense is ready to go, they have Cam’s old Auburn teammate Tre Mason as the clear #1 running back on the depth chart and an offensive line that is far from the makeshift line in Carolina.  With the right quarterback this team can be a wildcard or division contender by next year.


Other teams that come to mind but with doubt are the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Chicago Bears.  These two make sense – football wise –  but won’t happen simply because Carolina wouldn’t trade Cam within their division; and Chicago simply has catastrophic cap issues especially when dealing with the contract of their own quarterback Jay Cutler. Even if Chicago found a trade partner – they would definitely not be able to wash their hands free of the whole contract.

Cam Newton’s future should be in Carolina – no where else.  Maybe if Carolina added to the pieces like Kelvin Benjamin and Gregg Olson – the development will come easier.  He’s got all the tools, it’s just time for Carolina to go “all-in” on Cam.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Title” Album Review

When Doo-Wop music hit the mainstream in the 1950’s, it displayed mostly teenage love and heartbreak to the tune of vocal harmonies and melodies that are still marveled at today.  Doo-Wop is unquestionably one of the finest eras in music history.  Back when studios couldn’t fix a voice to sound a certain way – these artists practiced and refined their craft non-stop and sounded better live than they did recorded.  It’s always fun to think of how much more complete the sound might’ve been if recorded with today’s technology. . .  Female artists like  The Chantels  and Kathy Young made a niche for themselves in the Doo-Wop era – but being women at that time – limited them in what they could sing about.  Keep in mind, “heartbreak and love” were pretty much the only topics allowed for a woman to sing.  It was unheard of back then for women to speak of promiscuity or have any sexual undertone in their lyrics.

In 2015, that is far from what’s going on.   Women are outspoken, speak their minds freely and leave nothing to the imagination.   With “Title,” Meghan Trainor takes Doo-Wop nearly sixty years passed it’s prime into the age of texting and facetime.


Meghan Trainor opens the album with her #1 hit single “All About That Bass” which made waves because of the playful honesty the song displayed.  Trainor is a girl with curves and is proud of every inch of herself – as she should be.  She displays this confidence in herself at every turn in this album and truly speaks to the female listeners with the song “Close Your Eyes.” It’s here where Meghan says: “Everybody’s born to be different / That’s the one thing that makes us the same / So don’t you let their words try to change you / Don’t let them make you into something you ain’t.”  The song itself effortlessly combines the three worlds of hip hop, doo wop and country in smooth fashion.  The musical marriage of Meghan Trainor and producer Kevin Kadish are a perfect fit for this project.

Kadish gives Trainor the “Doo-Wop meets Pop Music” backdrop that is technically sound and catchy, which goes along great with Megan Trainor’s big personality and character.

Trainor’s story-telling is at times brazen and witty as it is on the track “Credit,” where she let’s it be known that she made her ex-boyfriend what he is, and although she doesn’t want him back – she would like a “thank you” from the current girlfriend.  Her melody is in classic Doo-Wop sound – even equips it with a “shooby-doo-wop.”  Meghan combines this sound with today’s lyrics with: “It’s not that I want him back, ain’t tryin’ to be mean / But I bought him brand new clothes and burned the skinny jeans. . . . she should be thanking me and sending me some flowers / I taught him everything, now he can last for hours.” 


Meghan even admits to her insecurities with  “3 AM,” where she talks about drunk texting a dude in the late hours of the night because she wants his “attention.”   She even deals with the task of trying to talk to a friend of hers who’s involved with someone that she says is “No Good For You.” Once again, the production laced with stabbing horns in the chorus and simple guitar chords accompanied by snapping fingers in the verses  are a genius touch by Kadish.

Trainor and Kadish really try to out-do each other on one of the album’s standout tracks “Walkashame.”  Here Trainor details the confusion of the morning after a one night stand, but in true “Meghan Trainor Fashion” she owns up to it by strutting herself out of her partner’s house with a wave of her hair and confidence.  This track is simply infectious.  Meghan can play the role of “the bad girl” and it still comes off “innocent” during the chorus thanks to the piano keys and harmonies that she rides perfectly “Don’t act like you haven’t been there / 7 A.M. with the bed head / Everyone knows it’s the walkashame / My daddy knows I’m a good girl / We all make mistakes in the drunk world.”

“What If I” and her duet with John Legend “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” displays Meghan at her most vulnerable.  “What If I” feels like the classic “Great Pretender” by the Platters and Meghan delivers a soulful ballad.  She doesn’t have the strongest voice out in the industry but stays in her pocket and delivers a genuine tone.  The chorus of “I’m gonna love you, like I’m gonna lose you / And I’m gonna hold you like I’m saying goodbye” in “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” – shows a great touch of song writing here as one proclaims to the other to never take them for granted.

The album’s few hiccups come in the form of a rap feature by Shy-Carter, who sounds like a really bad version of B.O.B on the track “Almost.”  The song was flowing fine until he comes along and basically ruins it.  There are times when Meghan herself adds her rapping “skills” to the music, as she does this on her newest single “Lips Are Movin’.”   It’s not that she’s terrible when she does it, but it’s mostly unnecessary and messes up the flow she has going on some of the records.  “Bang Dem Sticks” is a forgettable track and “Dear Future Husband” is a track that is silly but is carried by the production.


Meghan exhibits a confident, young and strong personality that isn’t afraid of straying away from the norm or being the center of attention.  Unlike her female Doo-Wop predecessors, Meghan’s opinions and voice are not shackled by society – and in today’s world it’s appreciated and accepted.  She might push the envelope a little too much to make her “kid-friendly” and although this album definitely opens up 2015 with a pleasant surprise – this album does not give much for looking into Meghan Trainor’s longevity.  But for a girl who’s all about that bass, she bangs into the industry with a debut album that brings a fresh take on a classic musical era.

Rating 8 out of 10.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio