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

Day before my Birthday… again

So…

Once again, a brand new J. Cole album has been silently announced, and is upon us, only 8 days from now. Not a word uttered from Jermaine himself. Following yet another late wake up, i got the news earlier on this afternoon, via a message from a comrade of mine on WhatsApp, showing a screenshot from Instagram with a photo of the album cover for 4 Your Eyez Only featured in it.

Now, instantly, i thought: ‘There’s no way he’s dropping his album on 9th December again. Two years after 2014 Forest Hills Drive just seems too good to be true, to me.’ Honestly, i thought that we were being trolled (there was a tweet two days ago by somebody who hacked into ScHoolboy Q’s Twitter, saying that Cole & Kendrick [Lamar] were going to finally drop the joint LP — causing much speculation (for fans especially) yet again. Oh, and his writing looks very similar to whoever’s writing is on the cover for We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (A Tribe Called Quest’s actual last album).

Considering that:

· Cole, for a good three years+ now, has been using ‘z’ on the end of his title tracks (“Rich Niggaz,” “Niggaz Know,” “Lil’ Niggaz,” “Wet Dreams,” “A Tale of 2 Citiez,” “No Role Modelz,” “Love Yourz”), the titling for this LP didn’t really come as a surprise to me at all; being that he’s made it clear over the years that he is an avid ‘pac fan, it seems he’s definitely following in suit.

· i actually saw a tweet today, from @princess_simba (the girl who had Cole attend her graduation), who showed a picture of the letter Cole sent her before the grad’; with focus on the top part, where the words read were actually ‘4 Your Eyes Only’. So, is he going down even more of a cryptic path in how he approaches the releases of his work these days (his last LP also appeared out of nowhere, or “out the sky” — only through a banner, rather than a pre-order link, which shortly after also appeared)? Is this now just his standard procedure? But then, funnily enough (as i often say)… according to Billboard, apparently the iTunes pre-order link, that had mysteriously appeared, supposedly disappeared.

· With Cole’s last album featuring nobody, and it being based on achieving that ‘happiness’, i wonder just what direction he’ll be taking next, both with his content and musically; with it being his fourth LP now.

· Does this album have any ties to/anything to do with 2014 Forest Hills Drive, being that it was said to originally be a “double album” — and so, could this effort coincide with it, since it comes two years later on.

· How can he actually top his last LP? Does he wish to? Is this next album just going to be another splodge of the paint on his pallet to be added to the canvas existing? Will we be introduced to new cadences? Does the usual subject matter die, as he progresses to something new, or does he remain within the same realm he’s been in, carrying very similar & familiar themes that we’ve grown to know by now; almost 10 years really into this ‘game’? Will Cole be departing from his past sounds, and taking an extreme stride into a more risky, experimental route; dabbling in new sonics? Production has been a big thing many have spoken on when it’s come to announcement of every Cole album [post Sideline Story] that’s been due. If there was one thing Cole was notorious for, prior to going “double platinum with no features,” it’s producing the majority of his own projects.

After Born Sinner (which entailed production handled by Jake One, Syience, Elite on Co-, and Jermaine himself), Cole began to let up on his artistic integrity and ego, allowing room for more range on the sound to invade his space and bodies of work. Pop & Oak, Vinylz, Cardiak, !llmind, Phonix, Ron Gilmore (assisting) all took part and had a hand in crafting FHD. This, of course, brings me to ponder on the obvious: who has produced for this LP? Some example of producers i’d have liked Cole to work with, are: Organized Noize, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Q-Tip, DJ Dahi (who provided the beat for “No Role Modelz”), Hit-Boy, Flying Lotus, Timberland, Mike Dean, & Madlib, just to keep the list short and to minimal. We know Cole can produce heat, as he’s proven he is more than capable… But, please; more variety? Way less limitations. We know what you can do on beats, ‘maine… or do you have more in store for us that we’re not hip to, nor [are] we even ready for. One thing that i am all for, though, is the album having  10/11 tracks only, which should mean and make for a focused effort. Super glad he’s decided to cut down the amount. This, i think, could be his most musical piece, where it’s focused on just the listening, rather than the visuals; and is potent enough in words that it will “paint a picture that’s vivid enough to kill blindness. Carolina’s Finest,” correct? But then again, i can’t help but think we may be in for a visual-oriented album (look at the album cover, for instance; the two colour patches, and just a simple nuance such as it depicting him looking at something; we can’t see his face… is he trying to take us through what he sees? maybe i’m looking a little too deep into it — but i don’t think it’s something to ignore; i very much doubt so, in fact. like [Quentin] Tarrantino, he leaves room for thought… but fills in the gaps. Cole does things with a purpose. Perhaps we should be closely paying attention to the details and concentrating on what he says. It’s nothing new if he really has something to say, but if so, then — what could it be?).

· Though the competition is nada to him, with the position that he’s gained; the seat he’s sitting on (even if there are “no more kings”), and other albums set to release,  can he blow others out of the water? Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love and Smoke DZA x Pete Rock’s Don’t Smoke Rock are both out tomorrow. KiD CuDi’s Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is out two weeks from tomorrow. Post Malone’s Stoney,  too, drops on the 9th. And then, Drake’s More Life is due any time this month now. Is he looking to crush the competition before and following him? It’s not exactly like 2016 has been a weak year for music, musically (npi). Is Cole trying to scoop a strong contending spot for AOTY at the last minute? Plus, it’s not even like he has to put an album out and is doing so for the sake of it.

It all gives me nothing but so many questions (like above). No doubts so much. It’s more so my concern for his legacy as an artist. Is it too soon? Does he feel the pressure to drop (even though i’m sure he knows he doesn’t need to)? Guess we’ll find out this time next week. Though my points may sound critical, i speak only as a fan who wants the best — so, don’t you ever get it twisted.

To say that i was thinking suicidally early this morning, to now come to the fact —as i (again) predicted [either the following, or that him & K. Dot actually would release the ting — he’s dropping an album, shows me that there is hope. my prayers were answered yet again. Thank you once again, Cole, for blessing me the day before my birthday. First it was coming to Birmingham to perform as part of tour What Dreams May Come Tour. Then it was 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Revenge of the Dreamers II (which was on the 8th, so two days before — but still!). And then lastly — this. It’s reminded me that there’s always hope, and always blessings whenever i least expect them. WDMC, right? Good thing i wore my T-shirt from the tour, then (edit note, 02:33—34 a.m. | 02/12/2016: wearing it again right now — who knows what dreams may come true this sleep, eh? [smurk emoji]).

… Cole World, but hopefully the music, again, will keep us warm this winter, huh. From Friday Night Lights (still standing as your strongest to date) up to now, it’s evident you don’t play; and you ain’t let the ‘villains down just yet… i trust you — and trust that you don’t intend on doing so anytime soon either.

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Buss da GEMS

you know it’s a quality interview when Westwood isn’t asking questions and lets a guy such as Bussa Buss drop insights, knowledge, stories all from his own personal experience & observation.

i’m glad that Busta touched on the gap between the beginning of hip-hop and where it’s gotten to now; its current juncture. it’s important that guys like Buss are around “to remind,” like he said and spoke of Q-Tip and the other “gatekeepers” of the culture.

P.S. Busta Rhymes i.m.o, is definitely one of the greatest rappers in hip-hop to touch it. nothing but respect for an OG such as him, 25 years in; with it being such a blessing to have him still relevant and willing to contribute to what’s going on; feeling discontent with what he’s done for the ting thus far. and if his next album is really what he’s cracking it up to be, then i’m supe-r-eady to hear what he threw in the cauldron.

what was going on with Westwood’s hand, though?

Great. But you know what I think would be greater…

Kendrick. Thank you for the music as always. Blessing us with the roawr from the core. As you gain more fans and lose a few here and there who just can’t get with the continuous and ever-happening sound-departures — from early K. Dot on C4 and Kendrick Lamar EP, and(O)verly Dedicated, to Section.80, then again to good kid, m.A.A.d. city, and AGAAAIN to To Pimp A Butterfly — I’d rather praise the purity and untouched~ness of the latest release (untitled unmastered). Seems like we’re forever going to seen the same discussion that Jigga fans and Kanye fans (“day-ones” and laters) be having about the change of the sound directions from one album to the next. Who cares though? You really ain’t gotta listen. Nothing wrong with not liking the music from an artist you love. It’s inevitable the music is gonna miss you rather than hit when it changes up to what you’re not used to, or when an artist is experimenting.

Could easily be handed your favourite food every day, but the moment ya Momma wanna introduce you to an experiment she’s been cooking up in the kitchen; and even though you might not like it – the respect given to her for trying is way more to be highlighted.

I’ve just always had more respect for the attempt. Whether it works for you or not is a mystery to be discovered, but music is going to be music. I’m inspired by the nature of it – motivates me to do me in whatever I do; and acts as a constant reminder that I gotta let it flow < and that ridere is what I love about the all-over-the-placeness in some tracks drawn by the live instrumentation; it drives me to a place where I can be free of perfection, or tried-for perfection at least in many scenaruos I see and sense with music and life in general. I’m happy that I know some of what Kendrick was up to during the process of making TPAB now really. So don’t diss this when it was probably primarily responsible for the so-called “masterpiece” that you claim; that is TPAB; that you love so much.

NOW, anyway and back to my reasoning for this log… wouldn’t it be great to hear your dream collaborations?

Mine? In this case speaking about Kendrick.

So, I’m bumpin’ the new compilation of the untitled records (that Cee-Lo feature was niiice, and Kaseem, that yo son producing?! explanenlighten me, please) and can’t help my thoughts going back to when I heard To Pimp A Butterfly, right… all that’s swilling in my brain is one question: WHERE DA FRIGGIN’ D’ANGELO & KENDRICK TRACK ALREADY?! Dot, you’re hurting me.. you too, dawg.

If I had it my way and could piece together a musical orgy ©, I’d have to have it go a lil’ sum like deeyuws (i’MA break it down into song structure rather than just the artists on it):

Prod. Sounwave, Flying Lotus, Terrace Martin, Timbaland, Dr. Dre, James Poyser (add.), Pharrell (add.), Raphael Saadiq, (add.), Madlib (sampling), Ryan Leslie & Q-Tip (keys), Questlove? (drums), & Dev Hynes (guitar)

Intro: Common & Missy Elliott (16-bar spoken word… don’t ask. Missdemeanor, mate – you don’t KNOW)

Beat switch (yes, this early on) and it drops… haaauurddd

Verse 1: Kendrick Lamar, Mos Def, Method Man & Redman (mixed written from all three 24 tough bar-for-barz, no playing with it)

Funky smoove groovy Bridge (dey gets buzy): Chance The Rapper & Kanye West (Janelle Monae, background vocals)

Verse 2 (they get all gosp’hetto or sum sh’): Alicia Keys,  Jazmine Sullivan & Jill Scott

Verse 3: D’Angelo, Bilal & Maxwell (D’Angelo takes it from the end of the last verse and goes into a classic-style D’Angelo mumbling verse, Bilal scats, then Maxwell comes in where he switches the gears up towards the end and just croons to get the ladies wet)

Beat switch again (dance breakdown, prod. Pharrell, Saadiq & Timbo, who also ad-libs)

Hook 2: Janet Jackson & Tinashe (The Weeknd, background vocals)

(claps and drums with snares too also)

Outro (dis is da climax now, where everyone just jumps in one by one and it synchronizes in the right way through evened out~overlapping layers and it just gets mad wild): Erykah Badu & Chrisette Michele (w/ Frank Ocean & James Fauntleroy in the background harmonizing) sing light vocals to start it off and carries on throughout until end when Tyler, the Creator ends the track with a  couple silly-ass lines, meanwhile Pusha T, Earl Sweatshirt & YG come with two straight hard bars, as A$AP Ferg drops slight noisy ad-libs and Miguel comes in doin’ those wild screams, and then Big K.R.I.T. & Freddie Gibbs come with a straight aggressive melodic two bars, James Fauntleroy (harmonizes), Miguel (doin’ those wild screams). Tyler, the Creator ends the track with a couple lines.

A bit tew much for you, raaight?

Yeah, so that’s what a fantasy is, to those who don’t know. Hope you understand it. If not, den fukarf.

Jokes on you if you think the tags might hurt the fiews I get. EVERYBODY GETS A HASHTAG! HarrHa *opera octave voice if I could reach it.*

 

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