Tag Archives: rap

Joe Budden Reintroduces Himself

When the name Joe Budden comes up in most hip hop conversations, the words “one-hit-wonder,” are usually associated with him.  If not for his 2003 hit record “Pump It Up” most wouldn’t know who Budden is.  Unless of course you know of him on VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop” and his very public relationships with Ester, Tahiry and Kaylin.  To the underground faithful – or just the Joe Budden fans – though, Budden is considered to be one of hip hop’s true great lyricists.  He has built a dedicated following without the use of mainstream radio due to his independent and mix=tape releases.  Budden’s style has been considered “emo” as he wears his emotions on his sleeve, goes in depth about the pitfalls of his life and does so with brilliant word-play.   With all that being said, Budden has been in the game for over a decade and doesn’t scratch the surface of what is considered to be a “rap superstar.”

Budden has maintained consistency in his product and a little more than a year ago, began his podcast “I’ll Name This Podcast Later.”  The podcast has proven to be successful and at times controversial.  He (along with his podcast partners Marissa Mendez and Rory) have been the subject of social media attacks from other artists such as Meek Mill but it doesn’t stop the show’s continued fan support.   Most recently, Budden was very hard on Drake, an artist who Budden has openly been a fan of on his podcast.  Budden was less-than-enthused with Drake’s last project “Views” and even went as far as saying: “I think that that kid on that album that I heard sounds real fucking uninspired.”  What this did was inspire a slight jab from Drake aimed at the direction of Budden in a snippet of a track released on social media where Drake  mutters the words “pump, pump, pump it up.”   Budden didn’t take this as a “diss” and publicly shrugged it off.  .  .


Then Drake released “4 PM in Calabasas” and Joe Budden combed through the lyrics of this song like a detective thirsty for some evidence:  “All of a sudden I got people showing how much they truly resent me/They whole demeanor just spells envy/they tryna tempt me.”

Budden laid low for a little while and then released a six minute verbal assault on Drake disguised as a song called “Making a Murderer, Pt.1”

The track, produced by Araab Muzik, supplied hip hop with enough ammo to burn through the next couple of weeks, as Budden took slight jabs at Meek Mill and Jay-Z (very slight but if you look back there is actually history there as well) – but the focus is clearly on Drake : “I’m a wordsmith for reall, you thought Quentin was bad/You made me proud, lad, but it seems my child mad/ With all the clout that he grabbed, theres still doubts from his dad.”  Budden has acknowledged before that Drake was a fan of Budden’s and even has ran with some of Budden’s style in the past. . .


Joe Budden truly peppered enough quote-a-bles on this track, I could’ve printed out all the lyrics to the song and the reader would have gotten the point, but these gems should suffice in getting the point across: ” You’re so indirect, shit wasn’t real clear/Either Jimmy actin’ or he really miss a wheelchair. . . .i figure he’s close to his death to know the reaper/in fitted sweats with old sneakers, the flow ether/gassed cause he KO’d Omeeka/no, Joe’s deeper. . .Your words ain’t sayin a thing/I kilogram without weighing a thing/ nigga you baitin’ a king.”  And for those that didn’t get that “kilogram” line – think about it – Kilogram / Kill-a-Graham / Drake’s real name is Aubrey Graham – the boy Budden got lyrics. . .

Now, should Drake respond?  For the sake of hip-hop, yes he should – but in truth, Drake’s best action – career-wise – is to ignore it.  On the grand scheme of things, Budden isn’t in the same stratosphere as Drake.  If Drake ignores “Making A Murderer, Pt. 1” it will be as if the track never existed.   Drake is that big of an artist.


Drake’s fans have taken to social media and have attacked Budden for trying to re-ignite his career by dissing Drake.  There might be some truth to that, but in reality, Budden is a rapper.  This is what rappers do (or at least used to do.)  He isn’t hiding behind subliminal lines or staying off of social media – he never has.  This is what he is.  Other Drake fans have said that the diss-track is altogether weak – which is obviously a blinded opinion.

Budden has done what needed to be done.  Today’s rap artists seem to be too comfortable.  Jump-Off-Joey has just shook the foundation from the top of the totem-pole and people are getting nervous.  Drake has a lot to lose if he comes out flat with a rebuttal record or loses this battle with Budden altogether.  For Budden, he has nothing to lose.  He has already gained a bunch of new listeners though who have been shut-off from the music he’s created over the last few years.


In hip hop, “the battle” is a good-thing.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Views” Album Review

Drake is the king of the new school movement.  His style has spawned many “sound-a-likes” and “copy-cats.”  His recent “beef” with Meek Mill, established Drake as not only a song-writer but also as an MC who can “get up in someone” if he needs to.  Drake’s confidence is at an all time high and it should be.  Every song he releases on line is all the hip hop world buzzes about for weeks and any artist who can afford a feature spot by Drizzy, will see their numbers rise because of the “Drake Effect.”

“Views” which many of us were led to believe the title was actually going to be “Views From the 6” when released, finds Drake at amoment in his career that he can pretty much do no wrong.


Drake continues to pay homage to his hometown Toronto on “9.”   Drake typically refers to Toronto as “the 6” but in this twist Drake explains: “Keeping people fed is my only piece of mind now/And i turned the six upside down, it’s a nine now.”   Drake’s attitude on “9” is very nonchalant, although he talks about being the one that people want to hate on all the while being the artist that has to continually to hold his city down and hold it up to the spot light.  Drake’s confidence has always been a strong point and even when folks try to bring him down, he loves to remind them that he’s in a position in life that they’d kill to be in.  He continues to reference his hometown on the track “Weston Road Flows.”  It’s here where Drake does his version of “going in” as he spits straight with no hook for nearly four minutes, and does it to his trademark OVO sound produced by 40.  Once again, Drake drops gems to remind his haters, that he is just who they want to be: “I’m looking at they first week numbers like ‘what are those?’/ I mean you boys not even coming close. . . you don’t be scoring perfect/you don’t be workin how we be workin/you platinum like wrappers on a Hershey’s boy that sh*t is worthless/you get the message over and over like it was urgent/and then act like you aint heard it when you see me in person.”

Drake goes his hardest on “Hype” where it seems he still is tossing jabs at Meek Mill: “last year i know you learned your lesson/I could GPS you if you need addressin’ /Boss up, I’m the bigger homie. . .”   Drake has mastered the obnoxious-on-top of the world persona and lyrically he can still lay gems in a verse, but his flows become repetitive.  On “Hype” he spits a bar rapidly, ending his tone on a higher pitch, takes a one second breath and goes right back to it.  This is one of Drake’s flows.  The other is when he basically sounds like he’s talking and is bored telling his own story.   He does this on the annoying “U With Me” in which he flips the old DMX hook on “How’s It Goin’ Down.”  His babbling is enough to make the listener lose interest quickly and his switch from rapping to singing is more awkward than it is clever.


“Redemption” is a lack luster production effort by Noah “40” Shebib and Drake does nothing to lift the track or pump any life into it.   It’s five minutes of audio that is nothing short of dry and plain.  That “dry and plain” feeling continues (quite ironically) on the track titled “Fire and Desire,” which is Drake’s love ballad to some degree on “Views.”   The lyrics fall short on “Fire and Desire” as well: “You never believe me/Told you I got Zs for these other girls, sleepin on em/Girl I’m sleepy/ sometimes I’m so indecisive.”

“Grammys” teams Drake back up with Future  and it only further proves that the idea of these two working together is a lot better than the actual product they produce.  Future repeats the line “They gonna think I won a Grammy” somewhere in the field of thirteen hundred times, but that should come as no surprise.  That’s unfortunately part of Future’s whole. . . thing that he does. . .


Another sound that Drake seems to have fallen in love with is the dance-hall feel.  He teams with Rihanna again on “Too Good” which is sure to become another hit.  Drake should really consider dropping the collaborations with Future and focus more on his chemistry with Ri-Ri.   “One Dance,” “Controlla” and “With You” all have the potential to become radio hits because of the club/ Caribbean feel to the tracks.   There is nothing special lyrically on these tracks and the breaks in the song are nothing drastic.   And therein lies the problem with “Views.”

Drake seems too comfortable musically.  Because his fans are dedicated and come in large numbers – he feels he can drop anything and it has the potential to become a hit.  When you’re an artist at the top of the game, you raise the bar for yourself and your peers – instead of sticking to his script, Drake needs to step outside of the box and deliver something different.  Is it fair to expect something like that from Drake – yes and no.  If you want to keep bragging about how you’re untouchable, prove it by further separating yourself from the crowd, instead of re-creating the same songs over and over again.

Let it be clear – the album is not bad.  It’s just what we expect from him and nothing more.  The lack-luster production and Drake’s sudden obsession with island sounds is the backbone of this OVO project.  This project might be his most streamed or valued in his discography because of the radio friendly tracks – but with Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole laying down projects that might be their best for some time, Drake had to do the same.

Drake has the ability to still throw in some clever lines as he did on “Child’s Play,”: “Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake/you know i love to go there/Say I’m actin’ lightskin, I can’t take you nowhere/This is a place for families that drive Camry’s and go to Disney.”   Still there are times when his lyrics are awkward and almost spoil a song, like he did on the album’s opener “Keep the Family Close,”:“Always saw you for what you could’ve been/Ever since you met me/Like when Chrysler made that one car that looked just like the Bentley.”   Eh.  The shame is, “Keep the Family Close” had the production and sound that this album should’ve been built around but alas it wasn’t.   “Keep the Family Close” opens up the album so well, that the album itself becomes a disappointment as you listen on because nothing else sounds like it.

Rating 6.5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“The Life Of Pablo” Album Review

Kanye West is. . . well if you ask him: the greatest.  There is no denying Kanye West’s impact on pop culture as a whole and there is no denying his force in the music industry.  We all just wish he didn’t try to reinforce that into our brains every day of our lives.   He is what he is though. . . for whatever that’s worth.  To criticize his accomplishments because of his abrasive personality is tempting but it wouldn’t be fair.   This is Kanye’s first album since 2013 and it was supposed to be named “Swish” and then it was supposed to be named “Waves” and for some reason he decided to go with “The Life of Pablo.”


Right off the bat, the good news about “The Life of Pablo” is that it didn’t include the two boring tracks with Paul McCartney and it also doesn’t include the lack-luster “All Day.”  Thank, God.   And that’s who Kanye seems to be thanking for the majority of the album, God.  Not Yeezus, but the actual God.  On “Ultralight Beam” which features The Dream, Kelly Price and Chance the Rapper, Kanye confesses his appreciation for the higher power and does so in his broken down singing, which could’ve honestly been assisted with some kind of vocal plug in during the recording session.  Chance the Rapper gives a good verse, almost blatantly stealing Kanye’s flow but it’s kind of out of place on this track.

Rihanna is featured on the hook for “Famous” and the track is everything you’d hope it would be.   Swizz Beatz plays the hype-man role to a Kanye who isn’t saying anything quotable per-say, but his energy is in a good place and even shows the pettiness we kind of love him for by taking an uncouth shot at Taylor Swift.  The song has a nice break with Sista Nancy and Swizz Beatz but it’s followed by the song’s outro  instead of going back to the hook which is where all the listener’s would beg for it to go back to.


For fans of the “Yeezus” album (that’s like all ten of us), “Feedback” has that same raw and stripped feeling with Kanye finally getting back to his bragging ways: “I know I know, I shouldn’t even bother/With all these gossiping, no p*ssy getting bloggers/Fashion show in Gotham, I need another costume/PETA’s mad cause I made a jacket out of possum/Awesome, Steve Jobs mixed with Steve Austin/Rich slave in the fabric store picking cotton.” 

Kanye dusted off El Debarge and threw him on the hook for “Highlights” in which West throws more jabs at folks: “I bet me and Ray J would be friends/If we ain’t love the same b*tch/Yeah, he might have hit it first/Only problem is I’m rich.”    Explaining the reasoning for those lyrics to his wife at night must’ve been a fun conversation. . .


“Real Friends” is an easy listen with Kanye (along with Ty Dolla $ign) explaining Ye’s relationships with friends and family in respect to his fortune and fame.  The back and forth between Kanye and Ty is an interesting look at an actual conversation between the two sides of the coin.  “Fade” is one of the better tracks on the album and it isn’t anything close to hip hop.  “Fade” is a break into smooth house music, and it’s definitely the type of song Kanye wants to see used in fashion shows, because that’s the other industry he’s tapped into.  The bass guitar and repetition works well with each other and it’s a song that one can easily see being remixed by house and techno DJ’s in the industry.

“No More Parties in LA” is a snoozer track which features Kendrick Lamar.  Both men are spitting aimlessly in their verses and Kanye at points doesn’t even try to stay on beat.  There are times on this album, like on “30 Hours” where the actual track sounds like a “practice track” where Kanye is just trying to catch a flow.  It’s an embarrassment to himself and a discredit to his fans.

If you noticed, there hasn’t been much spoken about production and that’s because that’s what’s most disappointing with the album.  We can at times forgive a lack-luster verse from Kanye or stomach his verbal “over-glorification” for the sake of great production – but he falls flat this time around.  As mentioned previously with “Famous” there are just points in the album when he has the listener all about the ride he’s taking you on and then decides to take a sudden left turn and drop you off in the wrong neighborhood.


It says a lot when one of the best tracks is an acapella, forty-five second long interlude with Kanye just saying his name to rap every line. . . seriously, it’s clever but. . .

For an album that’s been nearly three years in the making and has brought itself the hype that comes with a Kanye West album, the final product seems incomplete.  It seems Kanye wants to flash his “genius” around, without understanding a simple rule to life and at times art: sometimes less, is more.

Rating: 5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Darkest Before Dawn” Album Review

Officially titled “Darkest Before Dawn: The Preview” – this release is the set-up for the release of Pusha T’s third studio album due out later this year entitled “Darkness Before Dawn.”  Now at the age of 38, Pusha-T has found himself to be “re-discovered” in the hip hop community.  Without getting too much into Pusha-T’s history, let’s just say as a member of the two man group the Clipse, he’s been in the game since 1997.  After a long run of solo features and successful mixtapes – he released his first solo album “My Name is My Name,” in 2013.   After hearing “My Name is My Name” people wondered why it took so long for someone of such vast storytelling ability, lyricism and personality to come up in the game as a solo artist.  Maybe, Pusha himself needed to fine tune his style before flooding the street with his work.


Pusha has established himself as one of the best to speak about the drug game.  His metaphors and word play dip in and out of his flow as effortless as George Jung went through customs.  On the intro of the album, he goes right into his comfort zone: “I speak to the trap lords/And n*gg@s with their hands in the white like blackboards/I done been black balled/ and never gave f*ck ’cause I’m Jack Frost, of sellin’ that blast off.”

Pusha-T is accompanied by producer extraordinaire Timbaland a few times on this album and on “Untouchable” we see, what would be in Timbaland’s world, a more stripped down version of his production.  The Notorious B.I.G sample, steers the track in a direction of defiance which is the key to Pusha-T’s character throughout his career.

Pusha-T’s lyrics and vocal tone are consistent throughout the album and so is his flow.  This would get tiring for most listeners but it seems Pusha (and/or his team) recognize this and have disguised his consistencies as an artist with insane production.  Some of these beats sound like the type most artist wouldn’t touch because they sound a little too weird, or awkward, but Pusha never loses command over these beats, like the one produced by Timbaland called “Retribution.”  Here Pusha is able to keep cadence with a skipping snare drum accompanied by a slight high hat.  It’s a credit to his talent as an artist to never lose himself on a track like this: “Monte Carlo nights,/let her throw the dice/play in paradise/all i know is white, get the powder gone/Bitces love to shop, levitate the mall/Mattress full of money, let it break the fall.”    


“Got ‘Em Covered” is another Timbaland assisted track which sounds similar to Jay-Z’s “Squeeze First” and Pusha shows a short tribute to the rap god by delivering the line of “I keep cash, case Feds connect me/ Case kids kidnap me, kids can get back me.”  Pusha keeps the drug talk going like a pro but the feature of Ab-Liva does nothing to the track and makes the listener kind of wish there was more Pusha, or that the track ended after the second verse. . .

A feature that does not disappoint at all is that of one Beanie Sigel on “Keep Dealing.”  It was great to hear production by Nashiem Myrick who most remember from the glory days of Bad Boy Records, when they had the “Hitmen” production team.  Pusha does not slack at all when given the cold production behind him: “The Robb Report of the snort/ kings hold court/ lawyers get bought/ palms get greased when them cases get fought/ no felony, what the f*ck you tellin’ me/ reduced to simple assault, reduced to a simple hush hush. . .”   Not to be outshined, Beanie Sigel (sounding a little different now) handles the third verse with authority: “Reporting live from the project benches/ Hella ‘caine, dope in cellophane, dirty syringes/Heron zombies, street walking on three-week binges/Clientele look like the “Thriller” vid in 3D lenses.”    This track leaves the listener wanting more music by this duo, and even for Beans to come back on his own. . .


Back to King Push though – he is in his element on “Crutches, Crosses,Caskets.”  He has a way of standing out in the rap community and on this track all he “sees is victims.”  He sees himself as a stand up dude, who can’t play games with the young rappers of today.  He’s all about the action and not the “flashy things.”

“M.P.A” is a weird track in the sense that when you read the track listing it reads produced by J.Cole and Kanye West; and featuring Kanye West, The Dream and A$AP Rocky — that will get any rap fan thinking to themselves “Oh sh*t, this is gonna be some fire,” but ultimately its just a regular rap song.  There is nothing special on production, The Dream offers vocal on the intro, while A$AP and Kanye only share there voices on the hook.  Once again – not a bad song – just disappointing, considering everything that’s behind it.

Pusha ends the album perfectly and on a conscious note with “Sunshine.”  Pusha steps out of his slick talk and speaks to the listener about issues currently in America.  He speaks of police abusing power and the struggle of getting one’s voice heard, when it seems nobody cares. “Sunday to Sunday, Pastor only want one day/Grandma praying someday/ But God can’t hear it over gun play/ Woo! still a target, but the badge is the new noose/ yeah we all see it, but cellphones ain’t enough proof/so we still lose.”


The only problem Pusha-T presents with “Darkest Before Dawn” is that he has just lifted the expectations for “Darkness Before Dawn.”  Easily, one of the rap game’s premier talents of today, Pusha-T proves that being a late bloomer is better than never blooming at all.  Let’s embrace it while he’s obviously in a zone right now that very few will be able to match today.

Rating: 8 out of 10

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

“Top Five Dead Or Alive” Album Review

Jadakiss has been calling himself “top five dead or alive” for some time now.  The funny thing about it is, nobody in hip hop has challenged him.  Nobody even questions it.  Fans and peers alike are all aware of the talent possessed by the Yonkers, New York representative.  He has mastered the “slick talk” as a rapper and his punchlines are among some of the most quotable in hip hop history.  Still. . . there has always been a question with Jada: “Why isn’t he bigger than he is?”  It’s a valid question and it’s usually answered with a shake of the head accompanied by a response like “He’s too hood.”  It might be a cop out answer, but there is some truth to it.  There is not a rapper from the old school or new school, who would (or should) test Jada on the mic.  This is why he has anointed himself as “Top Five D.O.A.”


Jadakiss’ theme is simple: He’s better than you and he challenges your street cred to match his.  On “First 48” he sets the tone for what’s to come over a soulful sample laid out by Ty Fiffe: “Yea they love to hear the don speak/That’s because my dialog ain’t in arms reach/Nah, I ain’t with the coward ‘ish/First the skinny jeans, now they wearin’ blouses/ Don’t ever confuse wireless for powerless.”

Swizz Beatz reunites with his Ruff Ryders brethern on “You Don’t Eat” and “Jason.”  Both tracks give Jada’s raspy tone a nice back drop as Swizz has never lost touch with his street-production.  “You Don’t Eat” shows Jadakiss in his usual defiant nature, telling people how he is a legend in the game, and has been looked over for unknown reasons.   Jada has a way of sounding aggressive on tracks without having to get rowdy and still be able to throw in a slick bar here and there “I put an end to you I save all the small talk for the interludes.”  It’s  true mark of an O.G. – of the rap game and the street.   “Jason” has some layers and depth to it although the intro verse by Swizz is a bit out of place. . . Jadakiss touches on the violence in communities today, especially from police towards minorities (Kiss cleverly utters “I can’t breathe” over the hook of the song in ode to Eric Garner.)   The song isn’t a shot towards the police, it’s more a message to the listener as in – you have to protect yourself and better your pride because nothing is promised and there are people who are plotting on your demise.  Even if the path chosen is one that is frowned upon.


On “Y.O.” you can picture Jadakiss on a corner talking to the younger cats on his block, schooling them on the harsh realities of what a life on the streets can lead to: “learned how to clap before he knew how to stack/ now he doing thirty something years in the max. . . Drop on the jux you can give him a quick call/But kicking it with him is like talking to a brick wall/Comes from a good fam so his books stay right/He only 23 he got a chance to see daylight.

Jada flexes hard on “You Can See” which features Future on the hook: “Top 5 DOA, niggas know he don’t play/I can sell a ki a day, guess it’s in my DNA/Comfortable with being at the top, that’s where he gon’ stay. .. I’m the general of the block, I’m a lead the way/Either way, call me Paul – as long as Peter pay.”  Jadakiss has an undeniable truth to his diction and one can easily tell by how easily the street metaphors and lingo flow out of him, that he’s a man who lives by what he says.

The album takes a few steps back with the boring “Man in the Mirror” and the disappointing appearances by LOX member Styles P on “Rain” and “Synergy.”  It might not even be the fault of Styles, the beat on “Rain” is nothing more than a loop with some nonsensical noise in the hook while the beat to “Synergy” is actually over powering.  It’s tough to make out what either rapper is saying as the highs in the beat are almost screeching, never making it an easy listen.  Lil Wayne appears on “Kill” but the song would’ve been better off as just a Jadakiss solo because the apparent decline of Weezy is evident. . .


There are other collaborations on the album that actually don’t fall flat.  “So High” is Jada’s “weed song” on this album and who else to feature on that topic than Wiz Khalifa who fits on the track perfectly and actually balances out the song well with Jadakiss.   “Realest in the Game” features Sheek Louch and Young Buck and the only issue with the song is trying to figure out which of them bodied the track best.

Kiss has been pretty consistent in dropping albums, but he ends this one the best with “One More Mile to Go.”  Here Jada is telling listeners to simply never give up and fight off feelings of self-doubt.    He spits bars that anyone can relate to : “Ain’t scared to die, but you thinking ’bout a coffin/And quitting ain’t an option but you think about it often/Saying to yourself, how this ain’t fair/You got the strength but the energy, just ain’t there.” 

It’s fitting that Jadakiss ends this album talking about perseverance because that’s been a key component in his life and career.  Top five dead or alive is a high claim but one that hasn’t been argued – at least not to his face and Jadakiss gives people a lot of reasons to not argue it. . . or get in his face.

Rating 7.5

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio



“All Love Lost” Album Review

Whether he is recording music, doing a podcast or on reality television – Joe Budden has made himself out to be the most “open book” of a rapper today.   Budden has had a way of keeping listeners engaged with his struggles through addiction, depression and his definition of “love.”   His formula throws many off, and his sound is not one which mainstream hip hop gravitates to, but even the most casual hip hop fan can admire the lyrical prowess that Budden possesses.  “All Love Lost” is the third installment of Budden’s “Love Lost” series following the album “No Love Lost” and the EP “Some Love Lost.”

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 10: Joe Budden of Slaughterhouse at John Ricard Studio on August 28, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by John Ricard/Getty Images)

Joe Budden’s bread and butter is how he can detail turmoil in a relationship and he sticks to that formula on the album’s lead single “Broke.”  Because Budden has been very public throughout his career when it comes to the women in his life, every song about a female leaves the listeners wondering who it could be that he’s talking about.  As entertaining as “Broke” is, it seems more like a song that was made to be the single then to actually fit in causing it to stick out of the bunch.

The album opens with Joe Budden and frequent R&B collaborator, Emanny on “All Love Lost” and it details the sound which provides the canvas for the album.  Pianos, strings and guitars all played in dramatic sequences while Budden is seemingly on cruise control, riding the track at his own pace, never rushing through his story.   It’s here that Budden speaks on his frustrations with his fan base, who didn’t respond well to his last album which had features from more mainstream artists like Wiz Khalifa and French Montana.  The meaning of the album is true in it’s intro as Budden seems to have lost faith in the idea of love, whether it be within the music industry, women or love for himself.

“Playing Our Part” gives us insight to how Budden deals with this on again/ off again relationships.   At the end Budden comes to the realization that he has been involved with the same kind of self-indulgent personalities, but he can’t turn away from temptation: “Nowadays they all the same / Enhanced body parts, smaller brains
They don’t get a hi in fact/ Mums the word, baby girl, it’s now quiet for that/ If you got nothin’ to offer, sorry Mrs. Jackson, gotta off ya/a
But as soon as you leave ’em alone /It’s when they send that same text to the phone (like ‘what’s up’).”


“Love, I’m Good” is a track that stands out as one of the more emotional tracks as Joe speaks on his frustrations with hip hop, Tahiry (we assume) and his son.  He speaks on hip hop as a girl who has changed and fallen prey to the world around her (“now I see her with Young Thug and Future, like what did you n*gg@s do to her?”).  He still has bars for days when it comes to Tahiry (“You threaten every girl I’m with, that just confuses me/Say you want kids real soon, now that’s abuse to me/And I just write about it in song, you’re like a muse to me”).  The song’s final verse is one that tugs at the heartstrings though, as he talks about his son, who at this point in his life looks at his father with discontent.  Budden has spoken about custody battles for his son before and continues here and even tries to relate to his son : “I was you 20 years ago when pop popped up/But nothin’ like you, sad how life’ll recycle a cycle/ You missin’ intel only a dad can give/
Can’t expect you to understand, this doesn’t matter to a kid. . .”


A disappointing track was “Make it Through the Night.”  It’s disappointing because it features a very uninspiring verse from Jadakiss, who is usually on-point when it comes to his guest features. . . The track is nothing new on a general music level either as it’s just one of those “hopefully I’ll get outta the hood” tracks.    “Immortal” wastes a strong hook which rides over an uneventful beat, produced by Boi-1da and Vinvyl.  Joe also blatantly uses the same very distinct flow that is used on the album’s single “Broke.”  The funny thing about “Immortal” is that although the song itself is uninspiring – this is  the Joe Budden sound.  Budden can sometimes just ramble from one topic to another so effortlessly, the listener at times can get lost in the whirlwind of emotions and topics being thrown at them in a sometimes unorganized fashion.

“Unnecessary Pain” is a gem on the album, that may get lost in the shuffle.  Here, Budden details how he is so ruined inside that he knows that any female who comes in contact with him will most likely get hurt: “I see your life from afar and something’s off with it/It’s my fault and shit, I shoulda never altered it/I sold a dream when you couldn’t have known the cost of it/Knew my love came with a pain and I still offered it.”  Budden goes off on another tangent again, but this time it is seamless and an easy transition as he looks at his mortality in music.  Being that he is one of those that puts out emotional LP, after emotional LP it seems to be draining him, but at the same time, he does it because it’s what his fans want: “And to the fans that I once gave my life for . . . I gotta tell you that there’s not much left in me / Yeah and not that it’s growin’ old/ But years of bearin’ my soul is takin’ it’s toll. ..”

“Man Down” and “Slaughtermouse” display a slightly more aggressive Joe Budden.  “Man Down” is Budden firing shots at people who are praying for him to fail, or even worse.  Budden makes a point in saying how he has been tried in every direction but he’s still around and knows he’s garnered hate from all different people from different walks of life because of the life he displays and accusations laid out before the public. . . “I’ve been more than a leader, even with my back to the wall/Thought I was finished forever when I was practicin’ falls/Now you second guessin’ yourself, you gotta ask what you saw/They fishin’, wishin’ it’s fiction, but ain’t no actin’ at all.” 

“Slaughtermouse” was leaked online before the album was released and most took it as a shot to Eminem for not helping elevate the status of Slaughterhouse – the four man rap group comprised of Budden, Joell Ortiz, Crooked-I and Royce, which is on Eminem’s Shady Records.  It was far from a shot at Eminem, it was more praise to someone he respects.  In that respect Budden details that they barely know each other although they’ve been through similar misfortunes in life.  Once again Joe’s vulnerability is displayed: “But different times, I was feelin’ like the odd man out/Like I should leave, they’d be better with the odd man out/Like when I wasn’t on that intro, I felt a little weird/ But that was for the team, so I didn’t really care. . .”


One wouldn’t be wrong in calling Joe Budden one of, or even the most, emotional rapper  in hip hop.  In serious circles, you won’t even get much argument that he is one of the game’s best lyricist either.  Joe is in a weird spot though.  He has a loyal fan base who wants the “emo” music, which he has mastered the delivery of, but it also has him in his own bubble as an artist.  All he knows, is how to air out his dirty laundry in public, and he does it brilliantly.  He just needs to find different ways to do it, so it doesn’t sound like the same story, coming from the same place every time.

Rating: 7 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“The Documentary 2” Album Review

When The Game announced that his next release would be a sequel to his classic “The Documentary” the anticipation grew.   When The Game dropped “The Documentary” in 2005, he was riding an incredible high and was being backed by Dr. Dre and 50 Cent.  Although the album was a modern-day classic – the “fallout” that the Game had with those on his first album was immense.  Still, that didn’t deter The Game.  He is one of the hardest working artists out in the industry and his record catalog is actually pretty impressive.  Although many have their reservations when it comes to “L.A.X” and “Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf” – there is no doubt the Compton native has come a long way from the infamous “fallout.”


The Game is now on reality TV trying to find “love” on the VH1 show “She’s Got Game” and  with the release of “The Documentary 2,” The Game is looking to dominate on all media surfaces.

Kendrick Lamar joins The Game on the opening track “On Me” which is produced by Bongo ‘The Drum Gahd’ – who handles the lion’s share of this album’s production.  The Game is a “friendly competitor” who invites artists to collaborate with him and gives them a backdrop that fits their style more than his.  He does this in ways to elevate his artistry and show his versatility.  Even on this laid back track he still emits the slick gangsta’ talk: “Spoon feed you n*gg@s like toddlers, from the city of Impalas / When shot-callers take their pitbulls and feed them n*gg@s rottweilers.”

The Game always pays homage to his hometown and to the legends of the craft – he kills two birds with one stone on “Don’t Trip” which features Ice-Cube and Dr. Dre.   The track is produced by will.i.am who sampled the bass line from the Digable Planets classic “Rebirth of Slick.” It’s still weird hearing the now family-comedy actor Ice Cube do the tough talk on record, but he is an originator of the gangster rap craft, so you have to respect it.  “Step Up” uses the same sample as 2Pac’s classic “I Get Around,” and while the Dej-Loaf feature is barely noticeable, the hook by Sha-Sha is a clever gangster twist on Brandy’s old school classic “I Wanna Be Down.”  The Diddy featured “Standing On Ferraris” has elements of Notorious B.I.G’s “Kick in the Door” and while Diddy’s spoken word outro is neither funny or entertaining, The Game handles his business on the track: “I’ve been shot, stabbed, left for dead / Walked through every hood in L.A., bandana on my head / Guarantee that sh*t was red/ Machetes and them choppers out/B*tches with their knockers out/I done f*cked them all, that’s why I’m standin’ on Ferrari’s n*gg@.”


Surprisingly the collaboration between The Game and Future works out harmoniously.  The Game even weighed in on Future’s situation with his baby mother Ciara and her new beau Russell Wilson : “Had a n*gg@ focused on the future, now a n*gg@ feelin’ like Future/We both dealing with a new n*gg@ ’round our kids/And we ain’t kill him yet, n*gg@, I salute you/ And I still bang like I used to, red Impala, gold things like I used to.”

The Game made a big deal about the guest production on the album and those big features turn out being  a disappointment.  Scott Storch came out from the rock he was under to produce the uninspired effort on “B*tch You Ain’t Sh*t.”  Kanye West even turns in a let down effort on “Mula” with an awkward chorus and a simple loop for the beat.

“Dollar and A Dream” features Ab-Soul, who is kind of all over the track and never really settles into a consistent flow, while The Game’s routine – honestly, just starts becoming tired.

He’s an infamous “name-dropper” and all of his metaphors consist of a verbal formula that goes like this: “I do ______________ like _____________ when he _____________.”

The album gets weird with “100” featuring Drake.  It’s “weird” because this is one of those rare occasions where Drake lets down as the featured artist, which works out for The Game who easily outshines Meek Mill’s assassin.  .  .  Another “weird” moment is on the track “L.A.” where will.i.am actually has a better verse than The Game or Snoop (who is also featured): “LA native, LA Raider, LA Rams – motherf*ck*n’ traitors / LA Clippers, LA Lakers, trippin off Kobe, you the motherf*ck*n’ greatest/LA Dodgers, finger to the Padres/East Los n*gg@s sayin’ ‘china tu madre.'” 


The Game gets it right on the Dr. Dre and DJ Premier production collaboration on the title track “Documentary 2,” – but who could really screw that up? He really did go in though: “I’m like sixteen Jay’s but the beat I can manage/so every sweet 16 is like Duke and Kansas/You about to lose advantage, I will come through crews and bandage/Bruise and damage/ f*ck your rules and manners/I kick back, click clack, bump the Wu in Phantoms / F*ck rap, I only respect Ja Rule and Hammer.”   If there was more of that version of The Game on this album it would leave a lasting impression.   “The Documentary 2” is a far cry from its predecessor.  This would’ve been better off as a mix tape to be honest. . . “The Documentary 2” actually takes away from the light that once shined on the “The Documentary” which has the unfortunate fate of sharing a legacy with it’s “adequate at best,” sequel.

Rating 5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Deeply Rooted” Album Review

2Pac.  Biggie.  Jay-Z.  Nas.  Scarface?


He should be included in that cast of hip hop legends but often times his name is omitted.  Scarface is a gangsta-rap pioneer who has been around since the late 1980’s and who’s persona became one of hip hop’s most defiant in the early 90’s.   “Face” has the coldest voice in the history of the musical genre and is one of the most respected lyricists to ever grace a microphone.  Yet, with all of this – he seems to be forgotten in barbershop arguments of “Who are the greatest MCs?”  Scarface returns to the scene with “Deeply Rooted,” in an attempt to further cement a legacy which has seemingly been taken for granted.

Scarface is a real life, true to  form, O.G.  He shares his stories not to glorify the life on the streets, but to scare others away from it’s harsh realities.  He opens up on “Rooted” with : “You win some, you lose some – life in a nutshell/ free all my n*gg@s on lock down, f*ck jail/ I’ve seen enough hell, I’m never gonna live there/tattooed tear drops, sitting in a wheel chair. . .”

Most of the album’s production is handled by N.O. Joe and on tracks like “F*ck You Too” and “All Bad” he lays down piano chords with enough darkness and soul, respectively – which help cater to the voice of Scarface perfectly.  On “F*ck You Too,” we find Scarface taking his time with his delivery.  Like a well thought out storyteller would, he keeps the flow at a cadence that keeps the listener at the edge of every bar: “We all wanna eat, gotta feed folks / took an oath on the streets called the G-Code / that’s what we live by, die for it / I got homies standin’ firm doin’ time for it.”  “All Bad” finds Scarface as a youth going to church and trying to justify in his young mind the allure of the streets.


Scarface’s growth as an artist has been evident for years and maybe for the first time since his album “The Fix” he touches on his spirituality with ease.  Face has a way of never being “preachy” in his spirituality but he effortlessly invites his listeners to explore the depth of his vulnerabilities.  His paranoia is felt on “Steer” where Scarface seems to be in desperate need of a sane moment to take him away from his darkest thoughts: “Career still intact got my street cred/Went on with life thinking that the beef’s dead/ But every now and then I get flash backs/Get down on my knees and I ask that. . .Paranoid, got me running for my life now/ Homicide’s questioning my mama and my wife now/ Parking lot, full of cops, got the dogs out/Running, chest burning, out of breath/ About to fall out.”

He talks about the hell he raised as a teenager on “You” and how the stress he threw on his mother at the time will revisit him as a father now.  Then he goes into more detail about his mother on the emotional “Voices” which is produced by M. Mac and J. Baum.  The track has a steady bass kick supplied with a very melodic acoustic guitar – separating the sound on this track from most of the album.  Scarface talks about living life with his mother gone and even the toughest of mama’s boys will feel this one: “I still often drift when I drive / the tears that drip down on my cheeks, emotionless mirrors with eyes / starin’ me down / a view of this soul/ a heart of a woman that’s cold / my conscience is weak/ she makin’ me weep / the only love I ever known / has left me alone. . .”

Scarface tells of a relationship he’s struggling to keep together in “Keep It Moving,” and even goes back to his O.G. ways on “Dope Man Pushin'” but he reaches a peak on this album with “God.”

“God” is easily one of the best rap songs released this year (with or without airplay) and once again the O.G. Brad Jordan a.k.a Scarface  shares with his listener, his honesty.  He breaks down “God” in three verses.  The first being if he himself had a chance to be God for a day and what he would do “I would open up the gates let the world see my face/Remove all doubt from the ones without the faith. . . A safe place, for the young to come out if they wanna play/ and let their mamas know that they okay.”  On the second verse he tackles the scenario if God took off for a day : “More souls never rest/A killer walks the streets seekin flesh/ A adolescent hangs she depressed. . .A father kills his son look at life it’s a mess/ Just imagine what would happen if the lord up and left.”  Then in true Scarface fashion, he turns the whole story around and ask the listener what would they do if they found out their faith was a lie: “When all that you believed in was a lie/Are you willin’ to accept it when you find out/ Or try to reason with yourself that’s what it is when it’s not/ And all the whole while it’s been a plot.”


Sure there are questionable moves on this album like the unnecessary collaboration with Nas and Rick Ross on “Do What I Do” and “Anything” kind of drags on a little too long – but even then – it’s nitpicking.  “Deeply Rooted” is yet another well crafted release by Scarface which will most likely and unfortunately go under the “commercial” radar.

Rating 8.5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


“Compton” Album Review

Fans of hip hop have waited since 1999 for this.   It was in 1999 that Dr. Dre released “Chronic 2001” his smash follow up album to his 1992 classic, “The Chronic.”  Dr. Dre is an icon not only for hip hop, but music as a whole.  He helped pioneer the gangsta rap era with N.W.A; helped build a classic (now defunct since his departure) label in Death Row Records; and has been the key force to three of hip hop’s icons for their respective eras: Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent.  Hip hop fans have been waiting for his third album – an album that was to be called “Detox,” but it never came to be.  Dr. Dre apparently wasn’t happy with what was becoming of it.  Some assume he just felt he wouldn’t live up to the album’s hype.  .  . Whatever the reasons – it’s brought us to where we are today: “Compton.”    Dr. Dre was inspired by the release of the NWA biopic film and decided to come out of his 16 year hiatus.


As expected with any Dr. Dre album, “Compton” is a compilation album, driven by the production and direction of Dr. Dre.  A lot has changed since 1999, and Dr. Dre jumps right on top of it with the track “Talk About It” which has a trap-music sound attached to it.  King Mez is featured on the track and even tweeted that it was “an honor” to be the first voice on the “Compton” album.  Dr. Dre sets the tone with his legendary status on the track: “I remember selling instrumentals off a beeper/Millionaire before the headphones or the speakers/I was getting money before the internet / Still got Eminem checks I ain’t opened yet.”

When looking at a Dr. Dre album, there is something every fan looks for right away: a collaboration with Snoop Dogg.  The listener is blessed with two tracks featuring Snoop.  On “Satisfiction” Dre supplies his long-time partner a track perfectly suited for the funk-driven Snoop, who is defiant on the track with lines like : “All these random n*gg@s fake as f*ck and I’m still gettin’ noticed.”   The feature from King Mez sounds like a poor man’s version of Big Sean more than anything else though. . . On “One Shot, One Kill” the dynamic duo ride a track supplied with a southern rock guitar sound and we hear a more aggressive Snoop Dogg than we’re used to and it all comes together to make one of the better tracks on “Compton.”


Dr. Dre takes notice of his NWA roots paying homage to his deceased comrade Eazy E, by shouting him out on a beat break on “Darkside Gone” and by sampling “For the Love of Money” (a song done by Bone Thugs N Harmony, which featured Eazy E).  Former NWA member Ice Cube joins the party on “Issues” and Dr. Dre is able to knock out another nice duet with a familiar face.  Dre’s honesty in the flow shines: “You know how many nights I heard them sparks echo in the park?/Around this time I was spinnin’ records at Eve After Dark/My city crazy, school girls used to play with that chalk/ Same chalk police used to outline n*gg@s we lost.”

As a rapper, Dr. Dre is on point throughout the album, which is good for him – but even better for his ghostwriters.  It’s not a secret or huge revelation that Dre has people write for him – that’s always been the story and we’ve all accepted it.  It’s never mattered.  This time around though, it appears somewhat obvious that the ghostwriter he goes to most, is one who is featured quite a bit on the album: Compton’s own, Kendrick Lamar.  Nobody can fault Dre for going this route, it makes all the sense in the world.  Kendrick is one of the best lyricists today and does hail from the city that the entire album is named after – but Dre sounds more like a carbon copy of Kendrick than “Dr. Dre.”  It’s a noticeable change in Dre, when it comes to his delivery and even his tone.


Speaking of Kendrick, he fully handles his duties on the album, most notably on the track “Deep Water” where Dre and Kendrick talk about the people you deal with and problems that one endures being a gangster: “I’m a C-O-M-P-T-O innovator, energizer / Inner city bullet fly til that b*tch on auto pilot/I don’t give a f*ck about your whereabouts / All I care about is wearing out – your area and airing out your upper body/ When I catch ya, walkin’ out ya parent’s house.” 

There is nothing wrong with The Game’s “Just Another Day” other than we’ve all kind of heard this record from him a million times over, but his aggressiveness is welcomed – although it’s surprising this is his only appearance on “Compton.”  Little is known about Flint, Michigan representative Jon Connor to those  outside of the mixtape and underground scene, but he has the spotlight on him and handles it on “For the Love of Money.”   “Loose Cannons” is kind of goes no where until Dr. Dre pulls a beat-switch and Xzibit (out of all people!) saves the song.

Dr. Dre does all his collaborators a favor by saving Eminem for last as Dr. Dre’s prized pupil goes ape on “Medicine.”  Eminem’s delivery is one of the best ever and he rides the horror-movie-like piano keys like a serial killer stalking his prey in the movie’s final scene: “No one really gave a f*ck about my descent, till I took off/mistook me because I look soft/ But I stood tall, I just followed the doctor’s orders/ So i rose and grew balls, told these hoes to screw off. .. had you on pins and needles when I spoke to you all/ You felt my pain, its almost like I poked voodoo dolls.”


“Compton” serves it’s purpose but fails to deliver that one beat that knocks.  Dr. Dre always has one beat that sets him apart from the rest of hip hop on his albums, but this time around he doesn’t deliver that beat that every rapper will freestyle over.   The production is good – but not great and there is not a song on here that ascends above the rest.  The album is definitely not a failure, but it’s not what one was hoping for after waiting nearly two decades to arrive.  Never-the-less “Compton” hopefully has reintroduced Dr. Dre to fans who only know him as Eminem’s producer.  The legendary D-R-E is back and that’s what matters.

Rating 8 out of 10

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

“Human” Album Review

Joell Ortiz is the Brooklyn representative of the four man rap group, Slaughterhouse.  It would be easy for one to lose themselves while mixed in with the personalities of Crooked-I, Royce Da 5’9 and Joe Budden – but that’s what separates Slaughterhouse from the rest of the rap world.  Each member has a distinct personality and this is Joell’s time to tell his story and have the listener in a zone that he has created, along with producer Illmind.  Illmind has produced tracks for 50 Cent, Scarface and Ludacris to name a few and has collaborated with the likes of 88 Keys and Kanye West on the production side.


“I’m a quarter of the best rap group, in my opinion, ever assembled but I’m 100% Joell and I wanna tell that story.”

Those are the words Joell speaks on the intro of “Human” and on tracks like “Light A L” he paints a perfect picture of growing up in the projects.  Joell Ortiz is great at being relatable and lets his personality flourish over a track with ease: “Hip-hop with Mellie then hit pot and scaley/Then sneak up to my roof and get sick mop from Shelly. . .Standin’ in the hall and lightin’ candles for the fallen/Reminiscin’, sippin’, snifflin’, and missin’ all them.”    On “Who Woulda Knew” Joell continues with his story-telling ability as he discusses a relationship he’s trying to save.  This is one of the times Illmind’s production along with Joell’s personality mesh perfectly.  The soulful sample echo’s in the back ground while Joell dishes out lines like: “Layin’ our head, I’m seein’ 4 years ahead/She seein’ 4 years ago, wishin’ she wasn’t in this bed/Instead, she miss the club life, the pop bub’ life/
The life she used to love is fuckin’ up our love life.” The best part of this record is how Joell captures the frustration of a man that is unsure about the future with a woman he loves.

On “New Era” Illmind drops a reversed beat accompanied by a repetition of piano keys that pay homage to the hip hop sound of the mid-90’s.   Joell hits the listener with clever back to back bars, about how his vision and mind under his New Era hat are something to behold.


“I Just Might” might have been a stronger track with a better hook and a little more life on the production side of things but then again, that’s something that seems to happen more often than one would like on “Human.”  “My N*gg@s” is a track that we’ve all heard a million times before, but a million other artists as Joell ends almost every line with the words “my n*gg@s.”  Joell is above this as a lyricist and the entire track is not worth more than one forgettable listen.  “Lil Piggies” is a track that Joell pushes his luck with and Illmind’s production sounds like a bad imitation of the J.Cole song “A Tale of Two Citiez.”  Joell’s aggressive tone is a nice switch up on the track, but the hook of “This little piggy think he’s hard / But this little piggy walks around with bodyguards / this little piggy think he real. . . ” – just doesn’t work as clever or funny.

“Latino, Pt 2” takes a different direction from it’s predecessor and joins Joell Ortiz along with his Latino hip hop brethren Emilo Rojas, Bodega Bamz and the son of the late Big Pun,  Chris Rivers.  The track has a reminiscent feeling of the first Slaughterhouse track as all four MC’s handled the beat with a purpose.  The one who steals the song though is Chris Rivers: “Put you in the earth, what it’s worth you can act natural/The pragmatical mathematical rappin’ cannibal/Who ramp with animals, Bronx nigga that has an attitude
You see my avenue is compatible with a battle room.”  Rivers’ aggressive-rapid-fire flow is reminiscent of his father’s and will have people keeping an eye out for him. . .

Ortiz and Illmind combine for a nearly 3 minute audio assault on “Six Fo’.”   Ortiz shows how down to earth he is, even while proving he’s one of the nicest on the mic with bars like: “I would play the park bench with a crazy Walkman/Listenin’ straight, no rewind button/
Flip the tape, fast forward just to rewind somethin’/Fast forward, I’m flippin’ tapes, look at me, I’m frontin’.”


“Bad Santa” is a touching track where Joell talks about not being around for his son as much as he would like to be.  It’s not about being a “bad” father either, it’s more about him and his child’s mother not getting along and him having limited time to see his son.  It’s a real-life track, where Joell’s honesty and frustration is felt, one hundred percent.

Joell and Illmind have a chemistry together as nothing felt forced, but if things weren’t forced, at times it felt rushed.   Maybe, they aren’t 100% honest with each other in terms of what beats to use/ what hooks to use and if that’s the case, that’s not a good thing and it hurt the project as a whole.  Ortiz is without a doubt a beast though, so for pure hip hop reasons, it’s worth a listen.

Rating 6 out of 10

G.W. Gras