VIEWS OF THE MONTH: August edition
#1 DJ Khaled, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Betty Write: Holy Key
While DJ Khaled is not my favorite artist/producer (I’m still not entirely sure what he actually does); it seems like his strategy is to attach his name and personal brand to any popular urban artist or fad, to boost his own profile).
With that being said, I was taken aback by DJ Khaled’s new single “Holy Key” featuring Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, and 1970’s icon Betty Write. This third single off the recently released album Major Keys has a more serious socio-political message.
Big Sean steals the show, with lyrics such as “police doing target practice with real bodies, momma’s in the street crying, standing over a still body.” Sean uses this track to vent his frustrations on the recent police shootings. Big Sean is also accompanied by Kendrick Lamar on this track. Lamar, with his faced paced rapping style, adds his social point of view, which is expressed in lines such as “I don’t resonate with the concept of love and hate, cause your perspective is less effective, and rather fake.” Both Emcees bring their lyrical A-game with this track, but Big Sean’s verse in particular was a personal highlight; due to his verbal delivery, and what the lyrics themselves embody. The unexpected collaboration is with Betty Write (a big R&B star in the 1970’s) she provides the track with a catchy gospel-like chorus, which reminds of an early Kanye West- College Dropout/Late Registration kind of vibe.
Thankfully this song is mostly free from the irritating Khaled catchphrases “another one” “we the best” and focuses more on current political situations. Although it’s an odd feeling to know that Khaled is behind such a politically motivated track; it’s definitely worth a listen.
#2 A Day To Remember: Bullfight
This is one of those bands I’ve heard of, but never actually sat down and listened to. A Day To Remember combine the vocals of frontman Jeremy McKinnon, with fast paced drumming, and multiple guitar riffs, for the new single “Bullfight”. In true pop-punk style, A Day To Remember intertwine a gravely yet pop styled singing tone with, well, for lack of a better word, yelling. Somber lyricism in “Bullfight” is a reoccurring theme, with lines such as- “Everybody sees your head hung low. They don’t ask, they don’t wanna know us. I’ll be the one, I’ll be your spark, I’ll be your light led you through the dark”. However, with the tracks upbeat and energetic tune, you kind of forget about the lyrical content. Being a first time listener of this band, I found A Day To Remember’s punk-style influence gives the band a certain kind of appeal. The screaming vocal technique featured in “Bullfight” works seamlessly with the songs overall theme.
Bullfight is a catchy song, and is a great lead single from the band's latest album “Bad Vibrations” due to be released on September 2. I think it will easily appeal to the bands core demographic, but may not be a mainstream chart topper. While “Bullfight” is a cool track, I don’t think I’d be able to listen to an entire A Day To Remember album start to finish; I can see their particular sound becoming too repetitive.
#3 Desiigner: Timmy Turner
What a year it’s been for 19 year old Atlanta rapper Desiigner; his debut trap-styled single “Panda” went to number one, in the U.S and many other countries. His overnight success caught the attention of Kanye West, who signed him to G.O.O.D MUSIC, and remixed Panda for his Life Of Pablo album. With the huge success of Panda, many were wondering (myself included) is Desiigner a one-hit-wonder, or does he have what it takes to have a long lasting career?
Well wonder no more, Desiigner is back with a new hit single “Timmy Turner”. This track originally started off as a freestyle for hip-hop magazine XXL, and their 2016 Freshman addition, in which the hip-hop publication promotes fresh and upcoming artists. After the accapella freestyle gained such positive attention, Desiigner began releasing small snippets of the track all over his social media accounts; and recently released Timmy Turner in its entirety.
I think Desiigner embodies the new-school rap scene; with his highly auto tuned voice, and his indistinguishable lyricism. Desiigner’s thick Atlanta accent is prominent throughout “Timmy Turner”; the Mike Dean produced track has a multitude of layers, from electronic synth’s with a mixture hard bass, which then fades into a piano sequence. This has to be one of the most complex rap instrumentals I’ve heard in a long time; I hope there are future collaborations between Desiigner and Mike Dean. The new single “Timmy Turner” also highlights Desiigner’s versatility as an artist; the tracks less of a club banger like “Panda”, and gives off more of a relaxed sound.
Desiigner is my new favorite artist of 2016; I highly recommend giving him a listen
#4 JoJo ft Wiz Khalifa: Fuck Apologies
Does anyone remember that teen singer JoJo from the early 2000’s? She became pretty popular with her 2006 hit “Too Little, Too Late”. JoJo had a string of other successful hits around the 2000’s, and then kind of just dropped off the map. I must admit, I still listen to her classic hits now and again, as my guilty pleasure.
JoJo is back in 2016 with her new single “Fuck Apologies”. The modern pop-styled track revolves around a breakup, in which JoJo has no regrets in ending the relationship; she’s no longer the teen sensation I had a massive crush on in year 8. Wiz Khalifa is also featured on the single. I find his rap feature adds a more urban element to the track, and Khalifa does have enough notoriety to gain the track some mainstream attention.
JoJo has it kind of tough, not only is she trying to appeal to a new generation, but she is going against many other similar female artists that are already dominating- Selena Gomez, Meghan Trainor, and Tinashe, just to name a few. If “Fuck Apologies” was supposed to be JoJo’s great comeback single, it is a bit of a disappointment. The track seems like it could have been released by any of today’s popular female artist (and probably become a hit). I’m all for artist reinvention, if it’ is done well; but I think JoJo has had her time. Although I’m willing to be proved wrong, JoJo’s new album “Mad Love” is due to be released October 14th, let’s hope she gives us some hits.
#5 Marc E. Bassey: Subway Car (Grovey People E.P)
This California native got my attention with his newly released 5 track E.P “Groovy People”; but 29 year old Marc E. Bassey has been kicking around for a fair while. Releasing a few solo projects in 2013 and 2014, which really built him a solid online following, Bassey has only just found mainstream success with his latest offering “Groovy People”. A personal highlight from this E.P was track number two, “Subway Car”. The pop/R&B track, highlights Marc E. Bassey’s polished vocals; the guy really knows his stuff, starting off with a vocal loop, the up-beat, organ accompanied track, then fades into an electric guitar, and also manages to incorporate a slow drum beat throughout the song. Even from the first listen you can tell each element of the track has been well crafted.
I believe that Marc E. Bassey is one of those artists that truly comes under the label of mass appeal. Firstly, I think everyone appreciates someone that can actually sing, secondly Bassey’s songs are radio friendly, and finally his musicality incorporates elements that will appeal to the masses.
#6 Jacob Sartorius: Hit or Miss
This 13 year old from Virginia rose to fame through the social media app “Musical.ly”, by uploading short comical videos of himself, lip-syncing popular songs. After gaining a large online following he decided to take his, umm, “talent” to where all aspiring musicians hope to find fame, YouTube.
Purely based on appearance alone, Jacob Sartorius is extremely marketable; so in that respect I can kind of understand the large tween/teen based following (he currently has 1.2 million YouTube subscribers). The trouble is, appearance will only get you so far, once people realize he has no actual singing ability, they will lose interest. I can’t be too hard on the kid, he does attract a lot of negative criticism; and if I was 13 again, I’d probably be doing the exact same thing as him.
Jacob Sartorius must have learnt from his previous release “Sweatshirt”, that singing isn’t really his strong suit. Jacob’s current single “Hit or Miss” showcases his upbeat, teen-styled rapping ability, paired with a heavily auto-tuned chorus, which is all brought together by a generic pop beat. The track “Hit or Miss” should serve as a reminder that auto-tune isn’t a fix, for a lack of musical talent. This works well for his teen demographic, it seems he has everything to be successful, except the voice. Although I can’t help but wonder, if he will regret all of this in a few years.
#7 Dappy- Run DMC
An English friend of mine suggested I take a look at Dappy, who was originally part of a British R&B/Rap trio, N-dubz. The urban styled group had a string of hits throughout the UK (from 2008 to 2011) and had a similar sound to The Black Eyed Peas. Dappy is the only breakout artist from the group; while UK rap is stuck in the grime scene, Dappy seems to take cues from American artists, such as Drake and Bryson Tiller. His latest track “Run DMC” offers a slow piano melody, which is paired with a strong bass; Dappy’s mixture of rap and singing flows well, adding a gritty urban sound.
From a lyrical standpoint, Run DMC highlight’s Dappy’s streetwise persona; lyrics such as- “Whose pitching with the Gooonies, all now been in the field like Roonie and that’s why the whole of man city salute me; the other side go and get grilled like haloum. Watch how I turn a ride door down to a groupie what’s new G come in and shoot me” show a serious side of the UK emcee. I think the 29-year-old rapper is still developing his musical style; Dappy’s other solo material shows he often switches between a multitude of genres- pop style ballads, urban trap records, and straight rap. Although Dappy is always producing fresh material, I think he should focus on perfecting one specific style.
Dappy is fast becoming one of my favorite UK rap artists and I can’t wait for a full length solo project to be released.
8# Joe Budden: Freestyle on Funkmaster Flex
In 2016, the age of snapchat, vines, instagram, and all that auto-tune, you may have thought the art of a freestyle rap doesn’t really exist anymore. Well new-school rappers, start taking note. Joe Budden dropped by Funkmaster Flex, Hot 97 radio show, to remind the world there are still true emcees’ out there. Budden rapped for over 4 minutes, his raspy vocal tones were prominent over a well known Fabolous instrumental. There are multiple layers within this freestyle, Budden references his old label R.O.C-a-Fella (owned by Jay Z), his battle rap with Hollow Da Don, I also picked up on a sly comment at both Drake and French Montana, with the line- “Relax partner, you’re a snapchat blogger wish’n ya’ll were a tad smarter; besides you jabbed first, but both know my jab back’s harder.”
Joe Budden’s rhymes are so complex; no wonder he’s an ally of the rap god himself, Eminem. Budden also stated, for any other rival rappers that wish to challenge him “If it’s not in a bar, I won’t address it, if it’s not directed at me, I won’t respect it”. To me, Budden represents an artist that refuses to compromise his style for mainstream success. Joe Budden’s rapping ability is definitely for hip-hop fans who enjoy real lyricism. Check out the entire freestyle down below.