Album Reviews – Hip-Hop Catch-up (Cool Kids, Drake, Reflection Eternal, Sage Francis)

Feel like a lot of ‘relevant’ hip-hop music has come out this month. Seem to be a lot of niche markets in with the hip-hop community. Whether you like your hip-hop high brow or ‘ignant’, heart felt or chill, there is probably something out there for you. Being a middle class white liberal arts major I’m probably in a really good position to determine which brand of hip hop is actually the best, via numerical ratings.

The Tacklebox Mixtape by The Cool Kids

Chill Muggin'

The Cool Kids are usually labeled ‘hipster rap’. This might make them inauthentic via their largely white audience. They probably don’t have a ton of street cred in the hip hop community cuz they don’t rap about guns, bitches, Cristal etc. Something I really like about them though is that not only do they not rap about guns, bitches, Cristal etc, but they also don’t rap about not rapping about guns, bitches, Cristal etc. Kind of understandable that they have a hipster following. They rap about stuff that wealthy, post grad, white kids care/know about: clothes, bikes, waking up late, fast food, keeping up a certain appearance and retro sneakers.

“Whenever the freaks come out at night, I pull the sneaks out. These Mikes come out in like…… a couple weeks now”

“Hover craft, buggy bikes look lovely, trust me. Don’t tie your shoes that tight it looks ugly”

“We dig fishes with the spices and the different colored rices. I was buyin’ Mikes when they were trippin with the prices”

“I was here like a pioneer. Nasty, like your first time tryin’ beer”

“I hit the snooze, cell phone alarm clock. Didn’t have to wake up this early but fuck it. In the fridge next to see what I can get cookin’. Got some oatmeal, guess that’s better than nothin’, or I could get dressed and get some sausage McMuffins.”

“Tacklebox” also stayed true to the Cool Kids formula by using these old skool, heavy but minimalist beats. They kind of sound like the type of thing that would be listed as “hip-hop” on the a key board with all the different generic beat options. On paper all the elements were there for this to be a hip hop album I could really get into. But it just didn’t quite have the magic of their earlier stuff. Maybe the beats weren’t as abrasive and in your face. Maybe all these female vocals really fucked it up. Not sure. It still wasn’t bad though. There are a couple good cruisin’ tracks on here for sure.

Volume II
You can DL the whole mixtape for free here: Tacklebox

Tacklebox 3 out of 5

Revolutions per Minute by Reflection Eternal

Reflection Eternal is the collective name of Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek. Seems like Kweli is one of the most ‘respected’ mc’s out there today. After listening to this album it is pretty clear why. His raps are intelligent, meaningful, and come at you with a speed that is hard to match. In the track “Back Again” you really get to hear him let loose. The beat is a simple repetitive African/tropical type drum, that lets Kweli really steal the show. The amount of syllables, metaphors and word play jammed into the third verse is almost mind blowing.Also the Motown throwback track “Midnight Hour (ft Estelle)” is as catchy and radio friendly a single as you are gonna find. My only gripe with this album is that at times, Hi-Tek’s beats seem to be a little over produced and overly flowery for the album. Overall though, this is solid and definitely worth a listen.
Back Again Mp3

Revolutions per Minute 4 out of 5

Li(f)e by Sage Francis

I feel like the line between performance poetry and hip hop is often a blurry one, and Sage Francis finds himself thoroughly embedded in that semantic haze. Often without a chorus, Sage’s verses typically tell a story and are meant to evoke some sort of deep emotion rather than assist a dancey beat. The first time I heard “Best of Times” I got chills. There was something comforting about hearing a brand of hip hop that was so insecure and self conscious. Feel like this is nerd rap. Rap for those that wouldn’t define themselves as cool. You get the sense that Sage Francis is really emotionally invested in every song on this album. Every song sounds like something that Francis has had on his chest for a really long time and is finally getting the chance to express. Sometimes though this becomes a little too intense for your average listener. For example parts of “Diamonds and Pearls” are a little too much Columbine and not quite enough “Freaks and Geeks”. Also with tracks like these I am not sure about the relistenablity of many of these tracks. A lot of it certainly does not strike me as summer time music. Either way this album is definitely interesting and may even be appealing for a lot of people who don’t typically like Hip-hop.

Best of Times

Li(f)e 3.5 out of 5

Thank Me Later by Drake

Drake is apparently the new face of main stream hip hop. In case you needed proof just check out his who’s who list of cameo appearances on his album including Alicia Keys, Young Jeezy, T.I., Jay-Z and of course Lil’ Wayne. When I first heard the album title and the first single “Over” I felt like I already knew what this album was gonna be about. It seemed poised to be one of the most hilariously arrogant and witty albums ever created, and that is saying a lot by Hip Hop standards. Really though, aside from the single, this album was a lot more introspective than I could have ever imagined. Drake seems legitimately concerned about the longevity of his fame and whether or not he really wants the ‘rap star life’. Also, there were probably a couple too many slow R&B(ish) tracks on the album for my liking. All this said there were still some hilarious/clever lines delivered by Drake & company on this one:

“I will have a model wife. Yo bitch is as hot as ice. Every time you see me I look like I won the Lotto twice”

“You too fine to be layin’ down in bed alone. I could teach you how to speak my language, Rosetta Stone”

“I don’t do a lot of bloggin’. I run this town. Don’t do a lot of joggin'”

“Shallow nigga, but deep enough to go swimmin’. I think I’m spendin’ all my time with the wrong women”

Over

Thank me Later 3 out of 5

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2 Comments

Filed under Music, review

2 responses to “Album Reviews – Hip-Hop Catch-up (Cool Kids, Drake, Reflection Eternal, Sage Francis)

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