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I’m a fan of Snoop Dogg – from Doggystyle to collaborating with Wiz Khalifa to his smooth confidence on The Price Is Right, and other various appearances in pop culture: Starsky & Hutchthe Pepsi commercial and his reality show, Snoop Dogg’s Fatherhood. Well, maybe not the latter. For the most part, I’m down with Snoop Dogg. Dogg, not Lion.

Snoop felt the need to reinvent himself, but the product was poor. Snoop Lion’s debut album, Reincarnated had me scrambling to find all the gin and juice I could throw back just to make it out of track 3.

As if combining Reggae and pop music isn’t risky enough, it was worsened by the fact that Snoop, who has no business in Reggae, was behind all of it. It was the equivalent of that kid who wears the red, yellow, and green bracelet and Bob Marley t-shirt because he smokes a lot of pot. Great, Snoop hung out in Jamaica for some months, but that doesn’t qualify him to make a Reggae album. Reincarnated is gimmicky, the pop-influenced production is cheap, and the content is absurdly stereotypical – the result that Bunny Wailer had feared.

Blatant pot references like songs titled “Smoke the Weed” and “Lighters Up” centralize marijuana in Reggae culture, which is inaccurate. Not to mention the dreadfully cliché album artwork. You wouldn’t find such literal references on any Toots and the Maytals album. Maybe 1 or 2 song titles throughout Bob Marley’s entire discography. He failed miserably at defending his ludicrous assertion that he is Bob Marley reincarnated.




Props to Snoop on getting Drake to rap about something besides women – credit where it’s due. On the song “No Guns Allowed” the two rap about the negativity of guns in society. It’s also nice to see his daughter singing with him. Regardless, it comes off as synthetic. I’m not pinning Snoop as a liar who doesn’t actually care about violence in society, but it seems that because it was a ‘Reggae’ album he felt the need to speak about peace.



I don’t think anyone is buying his act. That he is trying to find himself and explore the roots of reggae. Regardless of the Jamaican singers who were featured on the album, appearances from Miley Cyrus, Drake, and Chris Brown confirm that this was a reach for mainstream success.

This isn’t a case of a rapper trying to stretch out and explore his talents. Reincarnated came off as a washed up rapper trying to stay relevant. The problem is Snoop isn’t necessarily washed up. He may be bored with rap, but he is still a prominent pop-culture figure – one that I enjoy. He needs to stay in his lane. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying and appreciating the genre, but the album did no justice to Reggae music or Snoop’s career.


Along the way I lost faith in Portland’s hip-hop. Too many people in my scene stumble off the beat and path of rapping for purpose, or making music because they love it. Instead, they get lost in the thought of fame, attention and money. You know, the stereotypical ‘bad rap’ evaluation: lazy rhymes where the only consistency seems to lie in the subjects: cars, bitches, and money. For most kids I’ve heard around the Portland area, it seems that hip-hop is more of a shortcut to fame than it is an art form.

Seamus Kilbride, AKA Kila, restored my faith. The 19-year old rapper, currently situated in the Bronx, released his debut Mixtape, 93 Til this past week. The sense throughout the 19 tracks is that Kila doesn’t care about the status – but rather he is rapping because….. he loves to rap. That’s refreshing.

93 Til is raw hip-hop; no gimmicks or catchy hooks. Kila speaks with passion, soul, and relief. With 19 tracks, it seems like the young MC has been working diligently while waiting for the right time to drop his content. 93 Til is the result of such patience. Instead of pumping out multiple, mediocre mixtapes, he waited until he mastered his delivery. By no means is it a perfect project, but it’s a strong debut.

Every song was packed with energy. Kila reeled off line after line. The rhymes seemed infinite. Kila used beats from 9th Wonder, Dilla, & Doom amongst other lesser-known producers. Nearly every track featured a different producer. Check out all the tracks I posted, then go download his tape if you like it. Kila – 93 Til – Mixtape Download








My favorites that aren’t on here: “A Glimmer” & “Look of Love”. Go check ’em out.


The prolonged wait for Ghostface Killah’s tenth album was filled with anxious hype. Ghostface Killah delivered, however, with yet another fantastic album to augment his solo career. Ghostface cleverly wrote Twelve Reasons to Die; an album that told a fictional story about a mafia man in Italy. The plot was supported perfectly by Adrian Younge’s phenomenal production.

Throughout the album, Ghostface plays the character of Tony Starks, as he declares in the first track, “Beware of the Stare.”


“I might shoot ya, make your ass an example/

You can’t f*** with Tony Starks and not get trampled/

Get hunted like a rat in a field; I hate rats/

Hate fake ass n****s that love to set traps.”


The story of Tony Starks becomes one of revenge. Starks, who is involved in the mafia, is killed by his people after having an affair with the ‘bosses daughter’ so-to-speak. They toss Starks into a pot of vinyl, and he is melted down and made into a record. Throughout the album it is revealed that Starks has come back in the form of Ghostface Killah on vinyl and proceeds haunt his former crime family, the DeLucas. What happens every time the record plays? Somebody dies.

All of this is evident in the first song, but doesn’t become completely clear until you listen through.



One of the things that makes the album great is Ghostface’s storytelling ability, tying fiction into music. This is most apparent in the fact that Tony Starks comes back through Ghostface Killah on a vinyl record. But there are hints of other references as well, like in the second track, “Rise of the Black Suits”:


“Jay De Lucas put me with the fam to grow/

I was a boss amongst white boys, rocking the flow/

I had hoes, bankrolls and minks by the dozen/

My rise to power was quick, they just wasn’t/

Trying to make me a made man, they f****d up the game plan/

I blacked out on them and started my own clan/”


The last line is a clear reference to the Wu-tang. He does it again in the hook, with a reference to “C.R.E.A.M.”:


“Follow no family rules, rules are for fools/

Chase the paper ’cause it’s the cash that rules.”


The 3rd track, “I Declare War” is where the action rises. Appropriate to the title, this is where Wu-tang army comes in. Masta Killa gets on the second verse and RZA narrates the story with an outro.



The surge of Wu-tang features and war theme continues on the next cut. U-God and Inspectah Deck hop on the track with a pair of verses. The music stays upbeat. You can feel the revenge of Tony Starks taking shape as the Killer Bees buzz through.



Just as the action picked up, Ghostface slows down to bring you back into the story. The timing of the change of pace is on point. In the next track, “Center of Attraction” the plot thickens. The song tells about Starks’ affair with Logan, the bosses’ daughter. In the first verse, Starks believes she is perfect for him:


“She knew my lifestyle; chick of a crime boss/

She would hide my guns in the house then lie to the task force/

Finished my sentences; knew my exact frame of mind/

Knew everything I had was hers, and she was mine.”


But Cappadona enters in the second verse and warns Starks that Logan is a set up girl, and the DeLucas family wants a reason to get rid of Starks:


“You think God sent her? Nah, it’s the devil instead/

They got plans for you Tone – they want you dead, dead, dead/

So get rid of that cherry pie pie, she’s mad poison.”

Starks comes back in the third verse brushes off Cappadona, claiming he is too paranoid.



Everything in this album comes together well. With eleven tracks, it’s long enough to tell the story, and short enough to keep the listener engaged. It’s easy to see why Ghostface has longevity. The production from Adrian was on point, and so was Ghostface’s creativity. Entertainment-wise, this is my favorite Ghostface album. The long wait was worth it.

I won’t give away the rest. Check out the remainder of the album to figure out the ending of Ghostface’s tale.

Logic opened his new mixtape with a sigh of relief. The title track, Welcome to Forever, put him atop a mountain looking outward at all of his accomplishments. I’ve been on the Logic train since he dropped Young, Broke and Famous back in 2010, and seeing his career progress has been thrilling.


If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Logic in the past three years, it’s that the up-and-coming rapper is a pure lyricist on a mission. He has delivered multiple mixtapes that have met acclaim. He has shown off his extensive vocabulary, mind clutching punch lines, slick references, and great use of samples. Nas is a common vocal sample for Young Sinatra.

Logic is, as he describes, “only cocky when I rhyme.” It’s true if you’ve ever seen his interviews. He’s humble, transparent, and doesn’t front or act like anybody else. It’s evident that he has studied hip-hop – old and new – learned how to rhyme, what to rhyme over, and has put together quite the resume leading up to his recent signing with Def Jam.

That brings us to the new mixtape. The twenty-track tape feels like a celebration for how far the Maryland rapper has come in the past few years. It features a solid mix of ‘mainstream’ or ‘new-age-rap’ and old school cuts. The balance is nice, and the skits break the tape up well.

If I could, allow me to burn on this: Hip-hop fans need to be easy on the ‘he’s going mainstream’ claims. Rappers need to stretch out. Putting out the same-sounding music on every record is going to become played out. Not every rapper is trying to become the next Drake when they slow down a beat, and semi-sing their lyrics. It’s a style of rap, and artists will use it. I say this because I’ve heard people call Logic out for it, and even J. Cole. Whether deserving or not, that criticism is getting old. People tend to overlook all the qualities that make those artists much different than Drake. They’re experimenting, not trying to fit Drake’s mold. I digress.

This isn’t Logic’s most focused mixtape, nor his best. But after all that he’s accomplished, a 20-track, feel-good record is acceptable, and there’s plenty of music to enjoy on it.








I’m a believer in J. Cole; always have been, always will be. Dude is real. Many people shared that sentiment until his album came out. Then came the notion that J. Cole was leaning towards the mainstream; trying to be Drake – something along those lines. But those lines don’t matter anymore because they have been erased. The best part: it only took six tracks to do so. That’s efficiency at its finest.

It’s not the next platinum record. It’s not going to top charts, but Truly Yours 2 is a mixtape that assures J. Cole fans that, at the core, he is the same person today as he was in The Come Up days: A genuine, honest rapper.

He didn’t flip the ‘haters’ off. Nor did he resort to Twitter to proclaim his dominance in hip-hop, or his ‘realness.’ He did what all hip-hop artists should do: He worked hard in the studio and created music – good music. J. Cole handled his doubters through his actions not his words (Coincidentally, the act of making music comes partially in the form of speaking. Interesting paradox there… Anyways…).

I don’t understand why anyone would dislike J. Cole as a hip-hop artist. To each his own, but what’s not to like? Cole is versatile. Rapping or producing, Cole has proven to thrive. He’ll even sing a hook if he finds it appropriate. He’s no Marvin Gaye, but his hooks are sufficient. His catalog runs deep, and Truly Yours 2 is a solid addition to the list.

J. Cole opens the EP with soulful samples. He handled half of the production on the EP. The first soulful loop came from the phenomenal Lauryn Hill, off her track “Nothing Even Matters”. And he weaves homage to her into his first verse when he raps,


“This sample was yellin’ “loop me!”, Ms. Hill please don’t sue me.”


And in the hook when he sings,


“I think I need to let it go/

‘Cause Nothing Even Matters.”


Also, what I love about this opening track is J. Cole quickly addresses comparisons to drake when he raps,


“Cause I ain’t one of these rappers out here frontin’ like he got it, n***a/

I ain’t f***in’ got it n***a/

Throwing thousands in the strip club with Drizzy/

Difference is I’m throwing four, he’s throwing fifty.”


His realistic mindset brings him down to earth. It’s refreshing to see someone who remains level headed, rather than jumping on the defensive in attempt to dispel critics. Cole knows he hasn’t reached Drake’s status, and his ability to admit it reveals his humble side. Overall, the song is stripped down to J. Cole speaking his mind. Nothing fancy, just some smooth bars, homages, and clever references over solid production.



Cole keeps the soul rolling with a sample of The Manhattans. Then he picks up the pace with a funky beat in the track “Chris Tucker”. He increases the aggression in his delivery on that track with a bragadocious tone.

Cole keeps a fast pace with the track “Head Bussa,” and proves that he is still an strong lyricist. He plays on an old expression:


“She told me, boy you want your cake and eat it too?

I said it’s cake, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”


Wordplay and pop culture references? Check:


“They killed Saddam, now I wonder who’s sane/

How you balance being Batman, Bruce Wayne?”



It’s not too difficult to keep a listener engaged for six songs, but it still takes effort nonetheless. Cole did a good job of varying the pace. The soulful opening, upbeat middle tracks, and then slowing it back down a bit for “3 Wishes” keeps the listeners on their toes.

“3 Wishes” has a nice bass line running underneath the beat, with an occasional videogame sound effect trickling down over some looped keys. This is the only track where Cole did not handle production.



And just as you think the tempo will stay down, Cole brings it back up for the last song. He wraps up the mixtape with a track in which he co-produced, sang the hook on, and rapped on. J. Cole, A.K.A. Mr. Versatility, A.K.A. Yours Truly.



Kid Cudi had another chance to revive his career. After listening to his third and final studio album under GOOD Music my feeling that it would fall short has been reassured. Cudi slipped further into irrelevance, as he pumped out another flat album with a couple of decent individual tracks at best.

Cudi set the bar high with the immediate success that Man on the Moon I brought, and each release since has contributed to a slow decline. Man on the Moon II was a solid album, but not superb. Next came WZRD, which garnered great first week numbers, but once people actually listened the album, it flopped. Now we have Indicud, the latest installment in a series of disappointing Cudi records.

The album opens with a typical, cheesy, industrial-sounding instrumental. It is supposed to signify just as the title states: “The Resurrection of Scott Mescudi” but in reality exposes him as a mediocre producer.



In the past Cudi’s moany vocals were beneficial, and his content reached his listeners. However, since losing the lonely stoner persona, Cudi has seemed to lose touch with his audience. Evidence of this is noticeable in his second track, “Unfuckwittable,” where he is trying too hard to bring that back.


“ Keep on searching for love /

Who else is incomplete?”


It may be one line, but it tells a lot. Solitude is a theme in Cudi’s earlier work, and it’s clear he’s trying to revert back to it. Cudi’s backtrack to his earlier success is also noticeable in his references to his desire to smoke weed again, which he declared he was quitting a couple of years ago. He raps in the hook:


“I need smoke /

I need to smoke /

Who gon’ hold me down now /

I wanna get high y’all /

I wanna get high y’all /

Need it, need it to get by y’all /

Can you get me high u’all?”


It seems more like a subtle way for Cudi to accept that his stoner charm was the trait that won his audience in the late 2000s. It comes off as a desperate attempt to relate to his listeners like he was once able to. In Indicud, his marijuana references seem synthetic after distancing himself from the drug. Quitting may have helped him personally, and that is always most important. But career-wise, it was a bad move. Part of his success rode on his marijuana use – high school kids were a large percentage of his fan base, and more importantly that’s the character he came into the game with as a solo artist. After his declaration of independence from weed, he began to fall off the map while other artists were coming up and stealing the spotlight.

But that is sort of nit-picking. A major contributing factor to Cudi’s downfall and the disappointment of Indicud is his diminished production line-up. Having a variety of producers (Emile, Plain Pat, Kanye West, No I.D., Dot Da Genius, Free School & Ratatat, among others) made for amazing music early in his career. Part of the reason is because the influence was diverse, and inspiration bounced between the multiple people working on the album. On his newest work, Cudi – a decent producer at best – produced every beat, resulting in repetition that made it hard for me to get through the entire album.

For instance, the mid-album instrumental track “New York City Rage Fest.” There was nothing to it. A couple of claps over some keys looped for about a minute without much else. Then fifty-five seconds of some added sounds that pushed the tempo up, but didn’t really contribute to the album. There were no vocal samples, and nothing musically compelling. It didn’t pull me in, and neither did the opening instrumental “The Resurrection of Scott Mescudi.”



And since I brought it back up, he practically recycled that beat for the song, “Red Eye.” The two beats have a very similar industrial sound. Again, Cudi handling the production by himself was a mistake. There was too much repetition.



Thank the rap lords for RZA, because he saved the day by speaking on “Beez.” He killed that beat – which had that industrial sound again. Mix it up! Talk about beating a dead horse.



While his cult fan base may still exist, it’s a small army. Moreover, he’s losing soldiers with every record he puts out. Cudi seems intent on making music despite his popularity. To each his own, I guess. Just don’t expect anyone to buy it.


Tyler the Creator has eased back on the aggressive approach with Wolf. He has made it clear with his new album that he’s moved on from his younger, pre-fame self. His first two albums consisted of dark, violent, gruesome, provocative lyrics. The 22-year-old rapper proved his versatility and creative ability with his latest project. In addition, there is more of an emphasis on production over lyrical content. In fact, Tyler handled all of the production.

While there are still many pugnacious tones and lyrics, Wolf has lighter points throughout. The album sheds a portion of the angry, murderous, devilish temptations that Bastard and Goblin consisted of. Softer is a good thing. So is hostility. But it’s a matter of timing; and at this point in his career, Tyler needed to throw a change-up.

The rebellious attitude in his first two albums was needed to reach success. Now that he is accomplished, he can ease back on the attack, and become more reflective. As Tyler said in SPIN Magazine back then he was broke. Now he has money. Now he is hanging out with celebrities. His life has changed and therefore so will the content of his music.

This is apparent in the second track off the album, Jamba, where he raps:


“I’m animals, Noah’s Ark, and all from this rapping nonsense /

Four stories in my home like “what the F**k’s an apartment?”

And the song Cowboy, where he tells more about his newly acquired fame:

“That’s how it goes – designing clothes, cats on everything, cats on everything /

You think all this money will make a happy me /

But I’m about as lonely as crackers that supermodels eat.”


The humorous references remain in tact, and there are plenty of them, but the delivery is not as aggressive.

More fame references show up in Rusty:


“Hated the popular ones, now I’m the popular one /

Also hated homes too, ‘til I start coppin’ me some”


In the song Colussus, Tyler elaborates on the annoyances of fame – in this case he vents his frustration with fans approaching him. The song has a very similar vibe to Eminem’s Stan – perhaps it may have influenced Colussus. Tyler raps from the perspective of the fan:


“My life is just like yours, no father /

My momma must have forgot to stop with a pop condom /

In school I was the one thinking outside the boxes /

So everybody in them would say I got problems.

Tyler, I love you, I wanna be just like you (alright) /

I think about your face and I don’t even f**king try to (no homo) /

Wish I had a basement mitt for me to hide you /

We could play X-Box and listen to ‘In Search of…’ and eat donuts

Over conversating about what church does.”



Besides his fame-influenced lyrics, we also see a more reflective side of Tyler when he speaks about his father on the song Answer:


“Mom was only twenty when you ain’t have any f**ks to spare /

You Nigerian f**k, now I’m stuck with this shitty facial hair /

Also stuck with a beautiful home with a case stairs /

So you not being near f**king fire-started my damn career.”



Those lines were from the first verse where Tyler shares some bitter feelings towards his father, noting that his absence helped inspire his early albums. But the chorus indicates a Tyler who is torn between feelings, as he raps:


“I hope you pick up your phone /

I’d like to talk to you /

I hope you answer.”


Aside from lyrical progression, Tyler’s growth as an artist is noticeable in the amount of guests who contribute to the album. Of course, most members of Odd Future such as Hodgy Beats, Frank Ocean, Domo Genesis, Earl, and Jasper among others make routine appearances. But for the first time ever on a Tyler album, features extend beyond the Odd Future crew. Most notably, Neo-Soul queen Erykah Badu practically has her own song on the album, and veteran rapper Pharrell shows up on the track IFHY. There is also an intro/outro where Nas speaks, on the song 48.


Tyler made an impressive move when he allowed Erykah Badu to do most of the singing on the track Treehome95. Tyler has a few vocals but mostly linger behind the hooks and verses from Badu and another female artist, Coco O. Tyler, meanwhile, handled the production on the song with a smooth, soulful jazz vibe.



The production throughout the album was impressive. Tyler made great use of the piano/keys on Wolf, Colussus, Cowboy, Awkward, and Slater. But overall, the music was diverse enough to maintain a firm grip on the listener, while not completely losing the ‘Odd Future’ sound.

Whether you like it or not, this is the album that shows Tyler’s progression. Goblin and Bastard brought him into the game, and Wolf will keep him there. Solid stuff from Tyler lyric, production and delivery-wise.


Buy Wolf on iTunes

Buy Wolf on Amazon

 zaya pd2

(Image courtesy of Zaya, from

If there were any thoughts of up-and-coming rapper Isaiah Taylor, known as ‘Zaya,’ moving further away from his potential, the MC’s second installation of ‘Pipe Dreams’ has squandered such beliefs. Pipe Dreams Pt. 2, which dropped on March 12th is a leap in the right direction.

While flow was not an issue on Pipe Dreams Pt. 1, there was growing concern the young rapper lacked content variety. The majority of the songs were limited to bragadocious rap. Money, women, success, fame and dismissing ‘haters’ were common occurrences. Taylor has matured significantly since his debut tape.

A healthy dose of brag rap remained in Part two. The tape opens with ‘Chasing Dollar Signs (Intro)’ where he raps,

“Mother f*** you hatin’ N****s, you probably pissed off  /

‘cause I’m hitting everything, and they saw you miss all,”

with commanding delivery over a thumping beat. The confrontational attitude remains, but unlike Pipe Dreams Pt. I, Taylor balances Pt. II with more introspective lyrics – the main difference between the two projects.

On ‘The View,’ Taylor invites the listener into his personal life with mention of his hometown. He raps, “I’m at The View with my girl” – ‘The View’ being a park on top of Munjoy Hill overlooking his hometown, Portland, Maine. He continues a few bars later:

“It’s crazy, this view just got me thinking ‘bout the past again /

No regrets, just reflect, Good with my life as it is.”

He also makes a clever reference to Nick Caner-Medley, a Portland native who spent time in the NBA, showing that Taylor has become more in-touch with his surroundings.

On the title track, ‘Pipe Dreams’ reflects on the meaning of his work, digging deeper into his own intentions:

“These n****s ask what a ‘Pipe Dream’ was /

Does he smoke? ‘Cause he might mean blunts /

Or is the pipe his pipe, ‘cause if it is then he might need sluts /

It might even be random n**** – just because /

F*** that, dumb n****s with their ears all closed /

I don’t smoke and I don’t need hoes /

Pipe dreams are the goals, it just might not happen /

The only f***in’ reason that I might stop rapping.”

Taylor’s ability to conceptualize appears on ‘Tell Me,’ the fifth track on the tape. Over an electronic-influenced, more buoyant beat, Taylor details a failed relationship – one he is attempting to mend. The hook sums up the message:

“You’re always on my mind /

I need you by my side /

Tell me, what do I have to do to keep you?”

While the positives are apparent, there is certainly room for improvement. Despite stepping up his content and displaying greater detail, there are still vague spots throughout the tape where the term “show, don’t tell” would apply.

On ‘Pipe Dreams’ the rapper claims, “I’ve been working hard just to get here,’ leaving the listener wondering what ‘work’ consists of.  This raises a transparency flag. Without clarity, credibility is hard to keep afloat.

In the same song, the rapper illuminates race issues: ‘I guess I really am lucky, ‘cause I’ve seen n****s with no dreams / black on black crimes, these n****s scoring for the wrong team.’ These are powerful lines, but it begs for elaboration. I was left feeling empty; provoked, then left curious by lack of detail. It kept me at a distance. Taylor had something in mind when he wrote these lyrics, and I would loved to have been enlightened.

In the song ‘Friday’ he states, “This song may sound simple but it’s way deeper,” again, raising the question, ‘what Zaya is thinking?’ At these parts in the mixtape there is a deficiency. I didn’t feel surrounded by Taylor’s situation. I felt like I was standing at a distance.

Overall, Taylor has taken forward strides, and Pipe Dreams II should be seen as nothing less than great improvement. A perfect mixtape, no. But at eighteen-years-old, Taylor is off to a solid start, and has much time to flourish in the rap game.

Buy Pipe Dreams Pt. II

Free Download – Pipe Dreams Pt. II

Free Download – Pipe Dreams Pt. I