Itzme Review: SHIRT – RAP (Album)

Not too many people have the nuts and the wits to pull off what Shirt pulled lately. In case you’ve been living in a cave, the dude made up a New York Times article (featuring himself) that fooled tons of people and garnered attention, and even praise for his slyness. I’m not about to regurgitate another news article for you, but Shirt just dropped a new album that he obviously wanted attention for, the question to ask is, “was all that effort made to bring attention to trash or treasure?” The answer is, “It leans toward the treasure side.”

RAP is hit with the “album” title, but it comes across as more of a mixtape. Not too sure, if it has any original beats at all, but one doesn’t really get that feeling listening to it. T.Shirt just has an amazing presence on all of his songs. He’s the star. This is about him, and his life, no features, just really emphasizing the man at every detail. Even in his “Tuscan Leather” rap-over, he’ll make a listener forget it was originally drake’s song about halfway through. This track presence is a really unique skill Shirt has as a rapper, which makes him stand out.

The other thing that makes him stand out is just the strong imprudence of a lot of his lyrics. His song “N** On coke” exemplifies that with lines like:

“I f*** love your friends.

I wanna f*** you friends,

I’ve been thinking was to tell you ‘I wanna f** your friend’

Basically I just wanna f*** two, three of your girlfriends”

(Talking to his spouse) Oh you bastard, you.

Lines like the ones he has in that song among others (particularly the ones on his project The F* [NSFW]) are audacious even for a rapper. despite the appall, he’s also really inspiring and introspective in his rhymes. In “Life and Art” the rapper vents about how he was losing touch with the actual love of the music, art, and culture of rap to “the life” or being obsessed with the riches, business, and success portion of it all. Powerful stuff.

None of that wall of text above really even matters if the songs don’t sound good though.

They do.

“New B***” could easily be the best rap track of the year. The instrumental is irresistibly groovy from the beginning to the beat switch at the end. Shirt flows so catchily, and the whole record just gives off the feel of a cologne commercial. Any person who listens to this will just feel like that dude. Just walk in the club to this joint, and you’ll be more popular than the dos equis guy. “Stolen Norman Rockwells” is guaranteed to have you doing the Terio dance.

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The song has a flawless pace with the rhythm of his verses and the transitions between them and the chorus. everything is in equilibrium.

RAP feels like another one of Shirt’s one-two punches. He’s definitely building his buzz up with this. Most would be satisfied with an overseas number 1 hit record, not Shirt. He’s saving the haymaker for once he gets on top (no pun intended). As far as hold-overs go, this is very impressive. definitely cold.

Favorites: “New B***” “Understated”

Songs That Blew Me: < I can’t believe I typed that for this project, bruh.

SHIRT Spotlight

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Itzme Review: Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo

As you probably already know if you’ve been interested enough to read this, Isaiah Rashad is the newest signing to the upstart rap label TDE. Back in ’12 they was pretty much dropping the best hip-hop collectively, aside from Fool’s Gold. That being said, people tuned into Isaiah Rashad quickly, being associated with that name. Now all of a sudden everyone’s excited about this Cilvia Demo. “ISAIAH RASHAD ISAIAH RASHAD OMG”

kinda blindly in a way. Butttt is this album deserving of ALL the hype? Nottt reaaaally.

Okay okay, now don’t get me wrong. Cilvia Demo is a cool listen, it’s not hot gahbage. The overall feel is really laid-back (aside from Soliloquy) and sort of dreary like a boring summer day or a chill Sunday. Rashad sports a comfortable array of cadence patterns to fit his beats. A common shortcoming of rappers that he manages to avoid on this album is that he doesn’t rap the same on every song.  There’s subtle sorta-clever moments throughout this joint, namely on the aforementioned “Soliloquy”.

“Don’t you put me on Freshman covers, I’m posin’ for lunch”

Most of the songs are pretty catchy, even if just by pure repetition. All of the beats are cool, they all kinda add to that feel I was talking about before. So pretty much anybody can pick up Cilvia Demo, and not be disgusted by it. That’s an extreme emotion though.

The main thing that holds back Cilvia Demo is there’s no standout features about it. None of the songs are really about any… thing. There are no genius concepts, flow acrobatics, mind-melting punchlines, impressive melodies, just… decent music. Throughout the joint, Rashad makes a lot of shallow references to his father, and by the end of the tape you wonder if he actually cares, or if he’s just saying it to invoke sympathy or make him look deep. He wavers from rejoicing in his debauchery and potheadedness, to sort of feeling guilty about it, which would be a little more respectable if the looks at them weren’t so shallow and short-lived. His delivery doesn’t help either. Albeit decent to listen to, it doesn’t have any feeling to it. You listen to “Banana” and he’s literally yelling:

“My daddy left me with no details

Came back with a b** and a stepson

I guess he forgot he left sumn”

But it comes across with the same passion as the subsequent line:

“Pearl necklace, I empty my left nut”

Just Eeyore level personality.

The other qualm with this album is how he does a lot of the hooks. Some of them may be catchy just off the virtue of the same thing being repeated over and over and over and over, but some of them are just sad. Danny Dee descends from the beat heavens and gives him this “Brad Jordan” instrumental and he says “feel like I’m Brad Jordan, feel like I’m Brad Jordan, feel like I’m Brad Jordan, feel like I’m Jordan” in the most dull mumbling he could think of, and it’s shocking because the verses are pretty nice. He gets on his J. Cole ish by singing his own hook on “West Savannah” even with a very capable singer being featured on the track. Needless to say, it made the song much less enjoyable.

Cilvia Demo is great background music. A person listens to Cilvia Demo, and they probably bob their head, wave their shoulders, perhaps even enjoy the lyrics. However, that person really doesn’t learn anything about Isaiah Rashad, but that his father left (and not how he feels about it besides it’s bad… I guess), he smokes and drinks, and he listens/ed to the same stuff that 90% of people who listen(ed) to rap listens to. If I had to describe the album it would be smooth, shallow, and bland.

This joint cool enough to be in the refrigerator though.

Favorites: What favorites?

Songs that blew me: None really.

Itzme Review: Tree – The @MCTREEG EP

As ya’ll should know, Tree had one of the top musical efforts of last year, and even earned a Frozen 10 award for his last tape Sunday School II. Very few artists are consistent nowadays, so I’m glad to see that Tree is one of those few. Scion A/V got hip and presented to everyone.. the @MCTREEG EP.

The great thing about this group of tracks is that it’s just so soulful. There’s an abundance of feeling in each song. The third song “Soultrappin’/I Believe” is reminiscent of some Ray Charles era stuff. You can’t teach this kind stuff.  And just as wonderful as that is Tree’s rhythm. Though this EP takes less of a rap direction, Tree still breaks it down with killer flows like the second verse of “Stay Away” for one example. Musical excellence.

Beyond that the songs really have powerful and personal messages. Tree really puts himself in these lyrics, it’s not no fabricated alpha-male garbage or anything else to put up a front. “Stay Away” is about him falling out of love with his ex and getting away from the trap life, “Uh Million” is an intricate admiration of a chick he’s messing with, “Like Whoa” is about someone he know being on a come-up, and how proud he is of him/her.

Beyond all that analytical stuff, the songs just sound dope. All of the beats beautiful. The only thing I’d take away from them is that some of them have peaking bass. All the songs are ridiculously catchy. You’ll find yourself reciting all the lyrics within a week tops.

Lennon’s verse is “Grace” is a great example of the catchiness. And although it doesn’t impress me, it’s hella hype. Taylor Outlaw is an incredibly rapper, anyone who hears her verse will immediately be typing her name up in Google. Her cadence and rap technique is super crisp, and her raps are passionate.

The @MCTREEG EP feels like an experiment with a new sound. Well now that we know it’s successful, it’s time for Tree to really show us what he can do.

It’s definitely winter.

Favorites: “God Like” “Like Whoa” “Soultrappin’/I Believe”

Itzme Review: Nacho Picasso – High & Mighty

Nacho Picasso is a rapper from Seattle. High & Mighty is his newest musical effort, and it’s pretty much the idol representation of entertainment over art, but dude has a little bit of everything on this project, so don’t fully box him into that description.

First discovered by ME on the posse cut “Tomorrow’s Gone” by Mr. M*****(however many stars I need, this is kinda a family site, but not really) eXquire where he went toe to toe with current rap heavyweights like eXquire himself, Danny Brown (who had an eh verse, it was cool though), and FBZ (THAT JUICE VERSE THO), and looked really impressive standing next to them. Dude had a heavily contrasting slow flow, slick wordplay, some obscure allusions, and a real ominous but cartoony delivery.

Fast-forward, I’m listening to High & Mighty. Now as far as this tape being entertainment, this guy, in a manner of speaking, keeps you at the end of your seat. What is he gonna say next? The majority of Nacho’s bars are these sick and clever little punchlines one after another. The Seattle emcee will say things like “If you think she your boo, you should check out my snapchat”

or say random chicks’ illegitimate sons (that may be his) shouldn’t rap because they’ll forever be in his shadow.

Nacho Picasso has quotables on quotables on quotables. High & Mighty is quotables. This is the biggest part of this album. When you listen to this, prepare to hear quotables.

That being said, most of this is really just rapping. Not much storytelling of concepts in it, just bragging or unfocused expression, which is fine considering what else you get with this music. You get a more tender and intrapersonal Nacho on songs like “Alpha Jerk”, “Real/Fake” and “Love Letters”, but these moments are concentrated on little parts of the song like just the chorus.

This isn’t a concern though when the man gives you so many different styles. In “Nacho The Ruler” he raps over a smooth old-school sounding track and switches up deliveries (inspired by Slick Rick obviously). “Duck Tales” is a hilarious hyphy-era styled song. And throughout the album you get a plethora of different sounds that shows his sonic versatility.

On top of that NP’s got flow skills to boot. Most of the time, he raps like he telling some Tales from the Crypt story or telling you a lesson whilst poking you in the chest, or if you ask him he sounds like “Jack Burton when I drag my lines.” But he breaks it down for you sometimes on the faster paced songs, like “Sounds like the intro” second verse, or “Crime Waves” hits you with some rapid rhyme schematics and transitions cadences like it’s nothing.

Swish seems like the guy that clicks with Nacho the best. He made the instrumentals to the harder songs on the album. “Sounds like the intro” stands out the most; you got that violin on the verse that sounds like Solomon Northup trying to avoid a beating, and the hook gives a whole different vibe with this creepy ooing and clanking that gives this ominous feel to it. That doesn’t discredit the other producers that touched this though. Vitamin D did something really different and tight with that throwback beat on “Nacho The Ruler”, and the funkiness goes so well with Nacho’s wildness and caprice on the track. It literally sounds like they built this song up together. I’m not gonna lie though, Cardiak seemed like he just regurgitated one of his old beats with “The Lick”.

This joint is something to jam to when you in an ignorant mood, or wanna be whimsical and whatnot. You’ll be entertained throughout the whole thing with Nacho’s funny anecdotes and catchy tunes. This joint a lil chilly.

Favorites: “Sounds like the intro” “Nacho Ruler”

Not my favorites lol: “Duck Tales” “The Lick”

Itzme Review: Flatbush ZOMBiES – BetteroffDEAD

Flatbush Zombies is one of the few truly effective rap groups out of recent time. I figure this is because of their skillsets. Erick is massively talented and his productions should be incredibly coveted. The architect crafted nearly every beat on this project, and their last (D.R.U.G.S.), and none of them fall short of awesome. Additionally you have L.S.Darko and Zombie Juice, who are both mostly technical spitters; but Juice is a bit more capricious and dynamic while Meech (another name for Darko) is really aggressive and conceptual. Additionally, they both have incredible delivery, and Erick also is pretty skilled in rapping, being more lyrical and introspective than technical. Since D.R.U.G.S. and their feature on Bath Salts, the Zombies have been wreaking havoc all over the rap game. Slaughtering all of their feature verses (i.e. “Mini Van Dan” “Just Blowing in the Wind”) and releasing great singles like “MRAZ” and “The Hangover”. This tape is a great continuation of their superiority.

D.R.U.G.S. was literally what it sounded like. A tape about drugs. Literally almost every single track was about narcotics, particularly weed. That project had a real semi-gothic, druggy, spatial vibe to it. BetterOffDEAD is a turn from that. In this one, the group is a bit more socially aware, evident from the get-go with “Amerikkan Pie”; and throughout the tape with “Palm Trees” and peeks in other tracks. On top of that, the Zombies seem more like these ruthless hippies from hell instead of these dark druggy guys, however there is a bit of ambiguity to their personalities, like their honoring of fellow BeastCoast member, Capital Steez. This sort of awareness is a nice change for the group and shows them progressing as artists. Other conceptual excellence is represented in songs like “Bliss” which seems like a rhetorically and boastfully invective and “ignant” song, but is in fact a philosophical look at society and how they react to the issues plaguing it.

As far as their rapping skill, it’s nothing for the Zombies. LiveFromHell literally sounds like the soundtrack to vicious rush of an army of demons escaping the gates of hell in a sick “rock-n-roll” type of fashion. Meech and Juice tag team on the drops in the beat with effortless teamwork. These dudes spit with such exciting rhythms that could hype you up on your worse day. Juice can alter his delivery to fit the song and the message so well, like with how aggressive he is on “Thugnificense”, but then how smooth swaggy he is on “Regular And Complex”. Meech just commands so much power with his voice on the track. He usually raps with an abrasive growl. Throughout this entire album they show you over and over and over again that they are incredible with their flow. Erick is also incredibly expressive in his lyrics like, “The first time I did drugs, it was making the beats”

BetterOffDEAD does run a little long though, at 19 songs and about an entire hour worth of music. If it was an album, it would’ve done better shaving off a few of the less impactful songs. That wouldn’t be an easy task, though as there really isn’t a single bad song on here. Additionally, each member of the group has their chance to have a song of their own.

I’d be making a book if I were to describe the good aspects of all the songs on this tape, but some of them need to be stated. Like I said 10000x before, the Zombies are just so thematically potent. “Drug Parade” sounds like some wild freaked out whimsical parade from the lyrics, the beat, the delivery, everything. The beat literally sounds like some ADHD, gothic, cartoony march through a ruined city. Specific examples is the “MORE FOR US!” ad-lib, and Danny Brown’s wacky singing.  Bad aspect is Action Bronson’s awful verse in “Club Soda”. It’s the worst verse I’ve ever heard him spit. I can’t even listen to FBZ’s verses because as soon as I hear the beat, it reminds me about how bad Bronson’s verse was. I didn’t even think he could rap that bad. Joint was just uninspired, unergetic… he just didn’t care. I would’ve just cut his verse off the song.

Flatbush Zombies. BetteroffDEAD. They did it again. If you heard of these guys, but haven’t listened, do it now. This tape is arctic. I’m out.

My Favorites: “Regular and Complex” “God Blessed the DEAD”

Songs That Blew Me: “Club…. Soda” ………

Itzme Review: Jay Z – Magna Carta… Holy Grail

Jay Z is one of, if not, the most dominant figure in rap. The guy is well-known, has an impressive catalog, and is one of the richest people in hip-hop. All eyes have been on him for years, and for the first time in four years he’s released a solo album. And just that easily, he takes over the rap game again. But is the music on point? Does this have four years of quality? Let’s observe.

The standout feature to MCHG is its production. Songs like “Tom Ford”, “Holy Grail”, “Beach is Better”, among the mass majority of the rest of the album is gonna get just about anybody’s head bobbing.

Dude has Timbaland, No ID, Hit Boy, Mike D, Mike Will, Pharell,.. basically most of the most popular hip-hop producers of now and throughout time. The songs all sound crisp and well-mastered. Some execution problems here and there like the obnoxious and overly pressed samples in “Jay-Z Blue” (even though I love that song) and the trap simplicity in the song with the longest one word title ever. Some of the beats just sounded incomplete also, whether in duration or in sound. Everyone knows the former (namely “Beach is Better”), but a good example of the latter is “Oceans” which just seemed to drone out for a long time with no strong climactic point. Which could also be an issue with song structure as well, but I digress. Plus I just can’t get into that accent that Frank is using. Does he always do that? (I’m not the biggest R&B fan)

Song structure could’ve used work on this album, though. Jay didn’t really have a strong presence on the album at all. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought “Part II” was Beyonce’s song featuring Jay Z. That doesn’t take away from the song, but with the consistent lack in presence on this album really gives the impression of a rushed and uncherished project (at least in the hands in Jay Z, but Timbaland had his foot allllll up in dis joint). I mean, even in “Tom Ford” where it’s just him, he’s not rapping all that much, just two miniscule verses and a super long hook. That song’s the jam though, but you know… can’t take it seriously.

“I don’t pop molly I rock Tom Ford”

“I don’t eat cherries I watch TV”

His lyrics kinda have ups and downs. On one hand, you have highly creative concepts like “Oceans”, and on the other you have lame lines like, “you ain’t ready yo, you radio.”

Meh

And more to that list is “Holy Grail” which is easily one of the best tracks on the album hands down. There he explains all the duality of having issues with being famous and the simultaneous love of it. I’m not gonna be redundant with my points, like this album was with “being rich” though. Jay is still hella clever though, throughout the whole thing.

“Soon as I step out the booth, the cameras pop

*** is cool with it, til’ the canons pop”

Amongst many others. Concepts like “Heaven” and “Oceans” are smart and unique. His lyrics drip tons of deft charisma like how he fits in a Buggati, and the line where he slickly fits in the obvious that he’s married to one of the most beautiful women in showbiz, but it was still tight the way he did it.

Flow is more or less the same as the lyrics. You get a ton of moments where Jay Z is just “uh, uh, uh, uh” and they he’s using these super-basic cadence patterns like the portion he borrowed from the less-talented Rick Ross and the one in “La Familia” that he eventually turns up to get you excited for a lul bit.

Magna Carta … Holy Grail is a taste of what Jay has to offer. He still has it, and it feels like he’s coming out like “yeah I still got this rap game ish in check.” Dude shows peeks of how talented he is, but at the same time sort of cheapens himself occasionally or just kinda sticks his name into a nice beat. The album has a couple of deep potholes artistically, but it is overall enjoyable.

Album Grade: C+

uh

Itzme Review: El-P & Killer Mike – Run the Jewels

Killer Mike and El-Producto made an, on the surface, unlikely yet powerful pairing last year through the Adult Swim network. Through that pairing they managed to respectively make, arguably (not really), the best two hip-hop albums last year.

With such impressive quality they gather overwhelming admiration and support for their craft. Fans all over have been anxiously anticipating their next move before it was even announced. Once Run the Jewels dropped, all of hip-hop’s eyes were on El and Mike.

Run the Jewels is an album of socio-political consciousness, [educated] villainy, and raw spittin’. And this theme carries throughout the whole album, giving it that same vibe throughout the whole thing. El and Mike master this somewhat comical villainy, talking about blasting poodles and riverdancing on people’s face with cleats. It’s almost as if they made this to represent how well they fit in with Adult Swim, as many of the characters on those shows are whimsically evil as well. Lines like “Actin’ brave and courageous ain’t advantageous for health and safety,” and, “try to save grace, get a face full of staples” make you feel like these are the most heartless people who spawned into existence. These lyrics depict them as villainous instead of them saying “hey guys I’m evil!”

Despite this air of devilishness they both take time to warn you about the evils of the system, which is a recurring strength of Mike’s; and it shows in his verses on “DDFH” and his last in “Get It”. On “DDFH” Mike opens strong with his thoughts of institutional corruption with the line:

“Cops in the ghetto, they move like the Gestapo,

drunk off their power and greed, they’re often hostile”

And then in “Get It” he comments on the “corporation slavery” off entertainers saying, “they corporation slaves, indentured to all the lenders, so even if you got seven figures, you’re still a n***.” Of course this isn’t exclusive to Mike, and El often speaks of similar concepts in his songs, and they do a good job of both supporting a concept when there is a concept.

A minor gripe with this album is that there aren’t any strong concepts to the songs. Some of them are loose like the aforementioned “DDFH” and “A Christmas F** Miracle”, but other than that it’s just general rapping. The lack of conceptual songs isn’t reeeeally a big deal, but as a fan of both these artists, one would know they’re perfectly capable and furthermore proficient at such.

As far as the spittin’ well they both go IN on the majority of the songs. Many of them use a back and forth tag-team style to overwhelm your ears with ridiculous rappin’. The two have an oddly fitting chemistry. The dynamic duo use cross-referencing (“Mike’s a villain”/“You know I get gone, I’m a goner”), among other techniques to make their styles, which are actually very different, fit together on these tracks. El’s stanzas a stock full of exciting quotables like, “you want a hand, bring your throat, I got stools and a rope” and “make a sane man walk around with a blunderbuss, peel another round make a sound that is thunderous” among many many more. Mike also flows with incredible ability like his masterful bars in “Banana Clipper”, but he also feels like he was rather reserved in some of the songs. Almost as if he was saying “Fuck it, it’s free.” For example, in “Job Well Done” Mike’s energy and delivery were on point, but the verse was rather underwhelming otherwise for a top tier rapper, with no strong wordplay or amazing flow patterns.

The production is awesome, which is no surprise at all coming from El. Just like most of his beats on the masterpiece, Cancer 4 Cure, they seem to draw a lot from hard rock, techno, and electronic music; yet still has a raw hip-hop feel to them. Some of them like “Run the Jewels” and “Sea Legs” are incredibly layered in a rock style with little guitar rift countermelodies speckled in. While others contrast that complexity with more simple loops with tight loops of real digital sounding melodies and hard-pumping bass like “36” Chain” and “Banana Clipper”.  El-P continues his streak of top notch production on this album, absolutely no complaints here on the raw instrumentals. Despite the beats being so great, El-P has shown to be a lot more innovative and strong in his production in his work from last year. You don’t get as many of those incredible beat progressions and transitions that you got from before.

Run the Jewels is a great display of rapping and production in its rawest form, and ends powerfully with the Christmas Miracle song where the two express a deep look into their upbringing and how it molded their mindsets and resolves respectively. Run the Jewels has good, lyrics, flow, production, etc. the main basic things you want out of a rap album. Despite all of this, it doesn’t feel like it was taken as seriously as it could’ve because it’s free. It’s void of strong concepts and well-stated concepts along with creative ventures in music that was present on older projects. Nonetheless, it is without a doubt one of the best projects you can get for free. Matter of fact, it’s one of the best projects of recent times period.

Album Grade: B+