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snoop

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.

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j-cole-truly-yours-2

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.