BOOOOYYYY, WAS i WRONG….

Ok. A’ight. i was buggin’, i was buggin’. 4 Your Eyez Only is quite tight, actually.

On my current, just-now-as-i-write fourth full listen, i’m feeling like this album picked up right where 2014 Forest Hills Drive left off, sound-wise; steering into more focus on the use of the instruments. And, Cole used his voice well, and in various ways to project his messages way more often this time around. There’s flows on this shit that i’m just now hearing from Cole—and of course the familiar here & there; those who know, know—he might just be introducing us to newer things. A modern version of ‘Simba’ could be on the way—so, i’m more than happy if it’s what we’re getting from now on.

It’s all going to sound like a biased-flip-floppin’-back-to-being-a-fan-who-would-of-course-like-it take on the project, i know. But genuinely, i’ll be the first to admit the album is still far from perfect. However, for the simple fact that this is what Cole, his team, and a bunch of talented musicians could craft, in what i understand, to my knowledge, to be a short space of time (mainly over the summer, according to Elite), i give a bly and applaud the album for being what it is. There is room for improvement, much like his last album… but it really is what it is—a complete project where he’s said what he’s had to say, that, honestly can’t be faulted, since it’s just solely spoken from the heart.

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Nice to know that live instrumentation is back—in the forefront of hip-hop—and now that it is, hopefully it stays; because, to me, the incorporation of it seems really beneficial to the evolution of the music that’s to be put together in the future, and has already been proven to be, as shown in recent compositions (2015—present), and as i spoke on in my thoughts on Black America Again, Common’s twelfth studio album. This “trend”—which really shouldn’t be one, or as i shluldnt be referring to as one, albeit—is the best thing to happen in years, in my opinion; and i stand behind that statement, firmly.

Ari Lennox, you did your thing on “Change”—you star. Glad that Cole gave her the spotlight and let her subtly shine like that, contributing a beautiful light; a ray-of-sunshine for an additional to the song. The song hit me even harder, hearing “that boy was 22,” too—the age that i would turn a day later, following the album’s drop-date. And while on subject, i think that cut not only shows, but actually boasts Cole’s most musical progression the highest degree, and to date—like, really… Electric Lady Studios did you some good, ‘maine. This is also the best mixed-down album from Cole i’ve listened to. So, big up Juro “Mez” Davis. The studying of ‘the loudness war’ aided, complemented and catered to the quality of each second of the LP—so, thank goodness that Cole took heed to the sentiment. It made, again, for a great listening, and only seems to grow on me each in which i listen now, and the rapping over the instrumentals is so smooth, too. Respect to J for sticking to his word on Eyez; aware of his platform and not taking for granted that he has it, but may never again one day. There is no shit for the radio on this one. This ain’t nothin’ for the radio.

“This for the ones that listen to me on some faithful shit. i’m on some thankful shit.”

It’s crazy to think how and that i originally thought this album lacked direction on first listen. Been re-taught a lesson: never judge the music off of a first listen. The more i listen to this effort, i realize he’s finally departing from past sounds, but forever in embrace of past Cole, as much as he continues to move forward—i was silly to think this was the ‘same old’ Cole.

THIS IS THE PART THAT THE STANS SKIYUP!

The unfortunate part about 4YEO—in fact, perhaps thee most sad aspect of the LP—is “Déjà Vu.” Though i could argue it, i have no place to really say whether the track fit [in-with] the clear soundscape carried prominently within the space of the ten tracks. The obvious problem and elephant in the room that exists here—at least to my listening experience, though i’m sure plenty of people who know about TRAPSOUL can relate, would agree and be willing to openly back me up on this one—is that beat.

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The way in which “Swing My Way” was sampled—originally by Boi-1da & Vinylz, not Foreign Teck (no shade, just truth)—on track 3 of the LP (despite being the original and father, if you will, to the succeeding-but-first-leaked-and-heard-of, “Exchange” by Bryson Tiller), was so similar to the latter, that it automatically overshadowed Cole’s track. It’s almost like it wasn’t even given a chance… it had no chance—not one. As soon as the song starts and that beat drops. Damn. The vibe the album began with and would follow up after it was ruined for a moment (for my unliking, that is, anyway).

Guess i can bear the song, whether i select it to play, or if it comes on—it’s not a bad song! But au contraire, my nigga—just as @i_makebeats tweeted the same notion that i’m about to mention… i wish Cole, Boi-1da and Vinylz could have just cooked up another one, because it’s not like they aren’t more than capable of doing that (and probably even in their sleep, too—Cole, you’ll like this one)—even though Cole dropped that duuuttty Pac-esque hook on it (YO! and on “Immortal,” too, which, btw, i can’t wait to hear in the whip—same way as i couldn’t with “A Tale of 2 Citiez.”

The title track “4 Your Eyez Only” stands candidly reminiscent of “Sing About Me, i’m Dying of Thirst.” But also, next to the lyrical style i last remember receiving from Cole on a cut such as “Runaway” on Born Sinner, it reminded me of Nas. Now, the “J. Cole—Nas” comparisons been relentlessly thrown out over the years—it’s common knowledge, and Cole hasn’t exactly shied from or been non-vocal in stating his influences during his career so far; probably not anytime soon either (sans “False Prophets”)—but this time around, it couldn’t be more potent in how he channeled Esco; from the storytelling to the more minimalist beats, allowing the words more room to breathe and for the listeners’ ears to catch onto… i don’t think he’s really done this as consistently since Friday Night Lights, to where it was so noticeable that it was one of his focuses to devote himself to.

This all been said… i really would love to hear what was or is to be done with all those chords and riffs as heard in the documentary released [on TIDAL] by Dreamville, a week before the album. There’s gotta be a place for some of those joints, surely. Hope they find a home that’s accessible to the public… sorta like 2014 FHD, Fayetteville, NC—LOL.

Happy for the fact that i was able to and can now say i’ve gotten past the stupid critical stage of listening i was in on my first hearing of the album straight after i got back from a night out (maybe the clubbing did it to me—just maybe). So yeah—now i can just put the ting on shuffle, enjoy, and resume with learning all of the lyrics off-by-heart. State-the-obvious, why don’t i (, everybody, their Mom & Nan)? The switch (even if it is like a continuation sound wise, although a little more risky) from FHD to 4YEO, can be likened to GKMC to TPAB, i suppose—in the sense that [what K. Dot did with] TPAB might just have been easier on the ears—even though it wasn’t—purely because it was just that musically exquisite that it was hard for a fan of quality music to deny. Cole maybe doesn’t have that quite have that on lock and in his pock’ just yet—he lacks that. Has the ability to pull it out the bag, though—if he can focus on that aspect.

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But what i’m even more happy about… what’s really important here… is that i believe it’s now time, after much speculation, and now that Cole is moving more forward towards a sound where he could easily coexist with Kendrick [Lamar] on, bringing only what i could imagine to be ‘autiful, rewarding results. Oh, and even potential collaborations with the likes of Anderson .Paak (who you should know that i really admire the muzikále work of)—one that i’ve been silently hoping for—and The Internet (i mean, just listen to Steven Lacy’s background vocals AND bass guitar on “Foldin Clothes” (a.k.a. the “St. Tropes” of this joint)—that groove would make late ‘90s D’Angelo & Questlove? super proud with a smile on their faces. Passing with flying colours, mate. J. Cole on jazzy beats, is a fit. Don’t make me have seizures, dawg—please. Like i said, ELS done had that effect on heem. Erykah Badu’s magick was left there in the presence of the premises. Aura all up in deyair.

With 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole now joins the 2016 class of Best Grower LPs, sitting alongside [fellow inductees]: Atrocity Exhibition (Danny Brown), Blank Face LP (ScHoolboy Q), and The Healing Component (Mick Jenkins).

Don’t think Cole has yet fully nailed it, and still is to create that project that is fully focused and not missing a step in the direction towards delivering whatever story or theme that it may be. A lot left to do, but at the same time—not.  Hopefully not for long, at all. Will continue listening of course. Maybe this one was  just him getting it out of his system and next time he’ll get it right as a  whole—Lord Willing. Less weak spots and flaws. Would be a shame for him not to; and to see him walk away with the rest of so much talent not shared with the world, with all that he has to offer.

Still a Cole World 😈🌍😇

Album is available now on Amazon Music, Apple Music/iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify, and in stores (Best Buy, Target for US | HMV this Friday for UK, as far i know)—aouwlahdat.

// All photos captured by Anthony Supreme, and courtesy of anthony-supreme.tumblr.com

MUSICAL PEAK

i’d argue that a lot of things in this world are best in their rawest form; their most true — music being one of those things.

On Friday, 7th October, 2016, Black America Again, and HERE — studio albums by Common and Alicia Keys respectively — were released. Two great bodies of work from artists well into their music careers (with Common being just reasonably a few years ahead of Alicia). Last night and this evening, i put myself to listen to each of them, and weirdly, almost feel this strange honor to have done so.

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The reason i felt inclined to write today, was because of — or should i say ‘subconsciously’ linked to — Usher’s eighth studio album Hard II Love (which i was disappointed with, and more openly voiced my opinion, here on Twitter: http://bit.ly/2g0csjV). In contrast to that, i felt that what Alicia and Common brought to the table, was them. [By that] meaning; themselves (of course, obviously); their true artistic selves, and while inspired — it wasn’t so obvious and plain to see. The reason i say so, is because, i do somewhat believe that it was albums delivered by artists like Solange (A Seat at the Table), and Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp a Butterfly) — though considerably younger than the two main subjects of here — that set new standards for elders, who, like i say, are fairly well into their careers now. Despite Alicia (who, might i say, sounds beautifully NY, how she gets on this album) and Lonnie being known to consistently give us great music each time around (and if not, then good at least), it’s nothing new to know that there are plenty of recording artists making music to sound like the times — whatever’s popping right now — hence why i’m happy and me being proud of two of my favourites of all-time. Who knows — had nothing but trash excuses for music been released in 2016, would two remarkable LPs from two veterans have come of this age? Hmmm… — one can only wonder, right? Perhaps they weren’t so inspired to make and release top-tier music. Perhaps they were already in these creative zones of theirs and had the juices flowing.

But anyway, without further ado — and to avoid dragging on (even though that sounds silly to me right now, since i’ve dragged on enough already) — rather than make this like an essay (which, now that i think of it, is actually a type of writing i’ve grown bored of — and again, even though i stated i’m pretty bored of them, this will probably still find a way through me to sound like one… hypocrite; i know), i thought it would be much lighter (HOW?!) to instead just let go of some of what was running through my head, both as i listened to Common’s [new] album, and watched the short film that he dropped alongside it. So — not to in any way disregard what incredible music Alicia Keys put out, but — here are my POINTS:

Me personally, i think that Common is the original Kendrick Lamar, just without the rough edges — a poetic MC; an extremely Afrocentric, woke individual, proud to be where he’s from, who knows the ghetto, and, [being] unafraid to, with confidence, can comfortably and unapologetically speak on issues going on, both within it and outside of it… but also provide suggestive solutions, and always a positive light to the negatives.

Black America Again being a more accessible version of — and easier-on-the-ears-and-to-consume/dissect listen than — Like Water For Chocolate, but just as clearly focused on the message as [he] was in the tail-mentioned (Oxford, you better quote me on this one — i coined it, motherfuckers, a’ight?).

Is Common the blackest light-skin of all-time before Jesse Williams? (this one was just for my own humoring — purely).

COMMON Black America Again with BJ The Chicago Kid (Live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)

i’m super glad that Common switched up “Black America Again” for the short film, showing and bringing variation to a song; stripping it down to the raw and exposing a different side to it. Just when i thought for a second, ‘Aaah — why wasn’t this version on the album?’ i snapped out and realized: it’s art — and fortunately, Common knew how to do it in just the right way.

The only thing that i’d change about this album, would be the placement of “Black America Again.” The climax of that song is so strong, i’m surprised Common didn’t put it at the end of the album. i mean, “Letter To The Free (featuring Bilal)” was super… but the the title track trumps — it be trumping.

Watching the Black America Again short film triggered me to come up with the word ‘glorientacious’ also.

COMMON Black America Again (short film)

Kareem Riggins did his thiing on the production (along with Robert Glasper) for this project. For Robert, i certainly get why artists such as Erykah have worked with him; and why others are also keen to. And Bilal — well, between being heavily featured on Common’s eleventh solo effort (four tracks in total) and two tracks on [Kendrick Lamar’s] To Pimp a Butterfly, he sure is showing how brilliant he is, to be the go-to — and with a shared chemistry as great as his & Common’s, it’s no wonder they’ve been linking up for over 15 years now.

One of my favourite things about 2016, is the accidental-yet-non-surprising connection between many albums that have spawned from what’s been vividly going on in America over the past three years. For e.g. you could take — as much as they’re the obvious and more favorable choices — A Seat at the Table and Black America Again, put them into a playlist back to back, or Black Messiah and To Pimp a Butterfly, and they’d make the perfect musical companions to each other.

The way how George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic and A Tribe Called Quest were probably grooving to TPAB, to me, is likely of the same-natured likeness of gratitude that Marvin Gaye and Gil-Scott Heron would show towards Common’s collection of songs, here in 2016.

Again, it’s no real news that Malibu by Anderson .Paak, has been my favourite album of 2016, as well as the album i regard best this year. But while it’s only been one single listen to Black America Again so far — Common may just have dethroned .Paak, and snatched the A.O.T.Y. title from him. Really, i just hope and pray that Common’s latest album doesn’t become my new and all-time favourite Common album, taking over Be; also meaning that it would become my favourite album, not only in hip-hop, but of all-time altogether, which a huge deal, with the latter being in cemented, firm position for a good three years now.

Without nitpicking, i’d say there’s no way that anybody can tell me the album is not a 9/10 at least. And if Common wanted to, he could really ended on this note, yo.

If John Legend’s new album Darkness and Light is of the stell’ that Alicia (not to cause confusion and have you drifting off into thinking i’ve turned this whole portion of the text into being about her(e) album) and Common gave us, then the fourth quarter of this year has truly come full-circle. First Alicia and Common, then John? *Ron Simmons ‘DAMN!’*.

Oh yeah, and: if Common could grow hair — i have no doubt in my mind that he’d have locs… freeform locs.

It’s easy for me, i suppose, to say, since i’m not a U.S. citizen, living in America — but don’t feel so sad about Trump, folk(s). It’s not the end of the world until it is. You’re still going to wake up. Just change the way how you look at the world. Doing so might not change the world or fix/solve everything, no. However… you might as well make the most of the badness with some goodness, right?

Sincerely,

LSNCLR

Cadence for Decades

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Minutes before today began, I finished this, thinking, ‘#ShouldveListenedToTaj.’ Those who know me know that I rarely sleep, but my LOARWD. This is the [only] Trap music I needed all along, after all. I mean, Future’s nice; and Ferg is nice; but Denzel Curry?! I need a shake-up never mind a wake-up. This album got some trap excellence. I can’t say I’ve heard anything like it yet. Plus, dude’s already got one of my favourite voices. The way he delivers the words is so ill and gives each word a purposeful life to live on. If this is how he’s been going on for THREE YEARS… Then I’m just disgusted in myself for letting it take this long time that it has. Great introduction for me to him as an artist for sure; and I’m definitely going back to his catalogue archive. Imperial is already a very strong contender for AOTY along with Bas’ Too High To Riot. Can’t wait to play this some more.

On another note, though… Harry Fraud still dropping these heavy beats for Curren$y and Smoke DZA, whose EP, He Has Risen, is super smooth if you want something with good beats and to listen to if you’re planning to pass half an hour or so. Plus Snoop is pulling verses out his ass these days; and not that bullshit, just phownky [shit]. More than worth peeping it!

Also, gotta rate the new Kano, with his fifth LP, Made In The Manor. Glad he put “Flow of the Year” on – even if it was only a bonus. It’s just serious respect to a guy such as himself, who kept true to those [British] “roots” whilst a lot of the guys at the front wandered off and wasted away their time they could have used to build a legacy, chasing after the approval elsewhere. No disrespect to them, since, clearly they know that now 👀. What’s incredible about him, the way I see it, is that he, even as a pioneer himself, recognises and isn’t shy to pay homage to the Reggae; to the Garage scene; the 2-Step; the Jungle; and just as well: the Grime scene – refusing to ignore Wiley, Dizzee, etc. He’s clearly humble, though one of the most skilled and equipped I’ve seen, from “P’s & Q’s” to “Nite Nite” and then “This Is The Girl” to “Raver…” he’s obviously just versatile with the sound.

~ LSNCLR

The Musical Just ICE

On a whim, I’m writing this, still buzzed off the Bassy vibes. My goodness. Some artists just can’t miss. This 11 – 13-track album trend just works for Dreamville. Since 2014, the “96 [Chicago] Bulls” been at it, getting the net poppin’, even if the net [worth] is being repeatedly put on a back-burner – which in this case is doing musical favours and justice.

The formula might not have changed the game yet, or let alone reached it, [but still] what’s being pushed, though, is the idea of quality over quantity — both amount of tracks on album and sales — and I can only pray that’s a sign of more than good things to come for hip-hop music.

The radio hits just aren’t important anymore. I’ve gone back to listen to albums from 2011 onwards, and can honestly only name, to me, a few that have eclipsed “time.” Found out last night that Fetty Wap just went platinum with his debut, self-titled album. More power to him. Well-deserved with the hits he was able to put out in 2015 that still got nightclubs going crazy. It’s all phases, though. I’m tired of hearing 10 albums the same – hence why so selective these days with what I choose to listen to.

For the past how many years now, these newly-released albums have been almost too predictable, because it’s common knowledge and cat-out-the-bag that for an artist to sell, they gotta follow the sound of the radio. What’s failed in the mean time, though, is album sales. It’s being proven nowadays that the return of quality is the old-new way that’s back.

The audience have been fooled for far too long, but no longer now. It’s getting to the point where, music more people are just growing tired [of the same old shit]. Tolerance is seeing a decline, and the past 5 years have been primarily nothing but a drone, in my opinion. Independence & innovation have taken over. While RIAA have changed the boundaries for the numbers needed for an album to a Platinum, it’s becoming all the more clear and prominent that the music matters more when you strip everything away.

Regardless of 1K or 1M first week, the artists really winning are the ones making the music channeling emotions that these other artists following the generic base/template can’t do. The vibrations; the influence; the feelings given off through the music are what just can’t be compared to. And so, in the long run, the music that lasts overcomes all. Better for something to {OUT}grow than to have a quick burst and stay where it’s at. Which is why you’ll find that something good can sell anytime, as its value isn’t determined by the now, but the whenever, instead. That’s why you see some albums that started off slow, but paced to higher heights without rapid progress. When it’s [its] time, it’s time. “Nothing is ever done until the time.” And, due to the artist putting the music over all, the alternative reward for that as sub for the commercial success [for them and the listener] is satisfaction within.

Independence & innovation are the triumphant components. If your shit isn’t selling, it gotta have something to fall back on, or it will burn, and not as an eternal flame but from ashes to ashes; only to be swept away and forgotten. Make your shit… and make it last. If not found now, maybe in a hundred years time somebody will find the book, read it and recognise it as the coined “100.” Real treasure ain’t be coated in gold –it’ll just be gold at core.

Been meaning to write about the current state of music for a while now, but big thanks to Too High To Riot, Bas’ album, just released today. Hiiiighly record-mended. Bas, you’re a human VIBE, my brother.

‘Cuz it’s Friday, you might have a job – but this ah get you high.

LSNCLR

HAT’S OFF, 2015. CAP ON 2015.

2015: THEE best year of my liFe, because, I…

Accepted, embraced and became one with myselF. I now wear my hearing aids more; am less ashamed of my middle name; very happy with my “nappy” hair.

Got blessed with a role that’s worked in my Favour; and through such, I’ve acquired skills that have helped in my life outside of work. ConFidence level has risen higher than ever.

Did more than double oF what my blog did in stats in 2014 – though this was never important in the First place, I saw growth as a writer.

Launched a brand, a website, and a campaign, on my birthday – which I’m Furthering, next year.

Started off, and in plenty cases, got things done that I’d have probably procrastinated over in previous years… no, wait – I did do that beFore.

Carry less shame with me, since I now know myselF a bit more. Some things, I didn’t do, but… rather than Feel remorseFul, I’ve began to understand why, now. Everything is For a reason; things are Fit For and serve purposes within their own rights. HopeFully next year, I utilise myselF more eFFectively and can do things better, oF course.

Had many “ups and downs” just like I believe any other one oF us did; some, potentially more than others – that’s OK though, because, through counting my blessings, I just elevated as a person. And, in 2016, I encourage you to do the same. It’s unlikely that you’ll have a perfect liFe – but you’ll learn to appreciate yours.

If you’re out tonight on New Year’s Eve, celebrating, stay safe. And, for tomorrow: HAPPY NEW YEAR. 2016 is on its way. Thank you to EVERYBODY who’s supported me this year. Couldn’t show enough of how thankful I am, I swear it to you.

Blessings, Love, Powers.

LSNCLR