itzme Review: Dave B – Punch Drunk

Former soundcloud crate-digging gem, Dave B, releases his first commercial project, Punch Drunk. It shows a progression all of the previously displayed strengths of Dave B’s music, but doesn’t improve much on the weaknesses. This makes a decent showing for new listeners, but familiar ears may be disappointed in the lack of growth. Punch Drunk (apart from its successors) holds its own, though.
The standout feature of the album is consistency of effective, memorable, and melodious choruses throughout it. Where the verses are generally a blended cluster of words in an interesting cadence, the hooks are quotable word-for-word in a singalong quality. The album opens with a very bright, cheery, and upbeat “Outside” (arguably the best track). It has a two-part hook starting out with a punchy chant “Sho’ nuff!”

 

then switching to singing and harmonizing that’s very hard not to recite. A good chunk of the hooks follow a similar format. The only hook (more of a bridge) that could be passed on is in “Navy” which has dull wordplay, and a flimsy metaphor.


In fact, most of the lyrics here are something to glaze over. While it manages to avoid cringeworthy material, “Punch Drunk” gives no real story or insight. It’s hard to take away much, if anything, from the lyrics. Like in “Cheap Sofa”, initially he seems to be talking about drug dealing, but when he reverts to talking about women, then bragging about his rapping it really just turns into word gumbo.

Fortunately, there’s a few interesting and funny moments with Dave’s carefree and lustful personality. A crazy example is in “Rain” where he says, “her intentions so precious, she be like, ‘You wan’ f**?’ I’m like ‘Eh, why you even bother asking? I’m with that!’” Or in Polaroid where he concisely (relative to the rest of the album) praises a woman’s beauty: “The best bread is ready, we netflixin’ heavy, the double D’s is right, that Ed, Edd, and Eddy.”
Sonically, Dave’s delivery, melodies, and rhythms mesh well with the instrumentals. The beats all set a mood and usually have some cute sample and simple drums. Not much else to admire besides that though.
Overall, Punch Drunk is for anyone who wants to sing along to some catchy, moody tracks without really thinking about what they’re listening to. Because Punch Drunk really doesn’t challenge the listener in that way unless he/she is looking for something they won’t find. Musically, it’s incredibly listenable, and Dave’s flow is undeniable.

It’s cool.

Favorites: “Outside” “Rain” “Polaroid”

Could be skipped for eternity, and I’d never look back or regret:  “Navy”

Trent Taylor + The Weed Tape Rejects

Last year, The Weed Tape was dropped and Trent Taylor hasn’t stopped since. He’s teamed up with Elijah Kilo for a 6-track EP, and is going strong with his Weed Tape series. The third installment, Rejects, goes against what one would think by its title.

The tape has a groovy and lax vibe laid over like a filter, but digging deeper into the tracks you get a bunch of different styles. Time Blunt of Hour features head-bobbing rhythmic stuttering in the sample. The watery rifts of The Hu$tle puts folks in a drifting daze. Characteristic sampling and other soundbits are entertaining. The variance between the instrumental styles is magnetic.

Throughout the album there are parts to chill to, and parts to jam to. And the timing between tracks along with the transitions and interludes are sweet; exquisite even, flowing like silk. I’ve been enjoying this for a few weeks, so I had to pass it on. Here’s a 19-track gift for ya’ll, use it as the soundtrack to your day.

LADE Sheds Light on His New ‘YORK’ Brand and Talks Hip-Hop Revolution

LADE is a rapper and producer that has put forth some impressive works over the past few years (he used to go by other aliases: Dgh, Doughmars, Je$us). He’s had a few songs of his own and produced a few great tracks for other artists. Namely those on Lord Byron’s Frozen 10 awarded Dark Arts Vol. 2 album, and on Shinobi’s (formerly known as Sir Milo) Corner Stores and Iron Horses.
Lately, he’s been working on building his new YORK imprint, and in talks of collaboration with Blu. After several months of inaction, he’s ready to unveil what he’s been working on.

Over the past year or so you’ve been showing a lot of sneak peeks of your York brand, but the details of it is shrouded in mystery. Can you define to us what ‘York’ is?
LADE: It’s basically a brand that’s starting out music based for now. Music, Videos, Artwork, and eventually stylized tours/concerts. I’m basically behind every facet of it and I’m properly working my way into investing into artists of all kinds to bring the brand to a multi-dimensional reality.

Have you ever heard of the Blue Ocean Strategy? It seems like that’s the type of mindset you’re bringing into this brand.
LADE: Yes, the art of creating what they call “blue oceans” of uncontested market space. Bits and pieces of that book I’ve been using as inspiration to minimize competition. I believe in the music industry today there’s lots of demand that’s not currently being paid attention to. Me, being a strong fan of both the business and artistic sides of the music industry, I feel a unique kind of enthusiasm to bring them to the forefront.

I know you have a really strong passion for hip-hop, but you also seem to be very critical of the current landscape. What do you feel hip-hop needs right now?
LADE: Hip Hop needs an entire reinvention that will take years to accomplish. African Americans critical of the culture need to get in business schools, study the practices behind the scenes, and take back their own culture that they claim Caucasians have “stolen”.
What I plan to do for hip hop is something I can’t do alone, which is why I plan on investing into hopefully a lot of aspiring artists and giving lots of people a chance to make something of themselves by not only benefiting this brand, but by benefiting themselves.

I remember you had a sort of call to arms for people who want to improve hip-hop culture and rap music a good while ago. Are any of those people part of the current movement you’ve got cooking up?
LADE: Yeah. That’s the most difficult part. Getting people who mutually support your vision is stressful, as most people think your plan won’t work, or they just flat out don’t take it seriously. Most people don’t take an idea seriously until it blows up and it’s making millions.As of right now I only have two childhood friends as silent partners. Besides that, I’m basically carrying this myself. For the moment. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to jump on your ship ASAP. You have to work and show why you deserve that support. Not only is it unrealistic it’s also a little narcissist. To think people are supposed to immediately invest all this hope in you even though you haven’t shown as much promise as all these other geniuses out here who’ve done their work already.

You must have some radical moves in mind, at least by common perception.
LADE: Radical is probably the most accurate term.

You’ve been quiet for a long time. Have you been working on a lot of different content, or on one big piece?
LADE: A lot of different content, but devoted about two months to one piece. Just trying to make the product as effective as possible without being over complicated. I’m a firm believer in simplicity. But it’s not simple to create simplicity, contrary to popular belief.
At least I don’t think it is.

I guess we’ll have to see. So you’ve made music in the past from rapping, to beats, to remixes. What kind of sound can we expect next from you?
LADE: Basically a combination of everything that I’ve been influenced by. And that hybrid of styles will be my initial platform musically, but as years go on, it will grow step by step into new territories. Even through other artists that I plan to be the engine for.

You’ve expressed an interest in doing R&B, is that something in the works or a longterm goal/project?
LADE: I plan to make a separate R&B/soul based division of York. For starters I will eventually have a R&B artist to headline it before that division actually becomes a thing.

In a lot of your production, particularly the most recent, it’s really abysmal (in a deep way) and cavernous. I’m not much of an R&B person, but it seems like a unique sound to the genre. Is that kind of production style slated for the York R&B music?
LADE: Absolutely. I intend to bring a different dimension to R&B music. Not to dismiss R&B of the past or present, because there will be a heavy inspiration of past R&B into what I tend to create. I’m basically just twisting the standard a bit.

So you’re going to be the face of production in your York imprint?
LADE: Yes. 100% of the production will be by me and me only.

There’s a huge standard that separates producers from beat makers. Which are you, and what do you think that standard is?
LADE: Producers are beatmakers who direct a project and have a vision. Beatmakers are just those who make beats and give them out to whoever has money. I’m a producer. Never really believed in the art of having one of my beats on a project if I’m not going to produce the whole project. There’s exceptions here and there but once in a blue moon.

Interesting. The best projects are when the vocalist and producer build together directly?
LADE: Sounds cliché, but yes. Not to say every album with different producers isn’t focused. But the producer and artist has to have a certain chemistry for the project to be more believable.

I kind of asked this already, but is that a mindset you’re bringing into your upcoming release?
LADE: Pretty much being that I’m artistically in charge of the entire thing.

Cool, what’s the timeframe for this release?
LADE: March at the latest. Before then is mini promo.

Itzme Review: Diabolic – Fightin’ Words

Diabolic delivers what’s expected of his name. He’s a very aggressive and visceral emcee with a mass amount of shock value in his rhymes. Fighting Words is injected with harsh sarcasm and verbal assaults that add definition to his personality. On the other hand he contrasts with self-revealing subjects and conscious concepts. This duality along with his rhyming skills makes him a well-balanced emcee with an album reflecting that, but not in a way that’s particularly fresh or untreaded before.
The flow used is the primary example. Diabolical is able to put together strings of sick multisyllabic rhyme with just one specific immovable rhyme pattern of “AAAAAAA”. However, this style is delivered in a way that’s reminiscent of the Fighting Words feature artists, RA the Rugged Man; and known to be used by Hopsin. Ironically, he mentions in “Bad Dream” he mentions that a label panel says he reminds them of Eminem who is undeniably a pivotal influence to Hopsin’s music. Fighting Words makes it evident that that Diabolic represents the high shock value section of rap.

Swinging a rappers severed head by his spinal cord
― “Diabolical Sound” by Diabolic

What’s entirely unlike the aforementioned two is Diabolic’s heavy and tough bravado. He possesses ruggedness so extreme that when matched up with similar concrete-skinned MCs in “Game Time”, it turns into an extravagant back and forth elbowing for the top spot. “My supporters would slap the shit out Little Wayne fans” It’s like he is the very manifestation of hard itself with the ability to leak that attribute into listeners just by listening. Punch you out your socks like…

At the same time, such a quote represents his oft-used rhetoric of the “real hip-hop heads” who spam “F Lil Wayne” on every underground track posted on YouTube.

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Bolic unfortunately seems very comfortable with this clustered and overpopulated identity.
On a lighter note, Diabolic has a very powerful and passionate voice for morality. Throughout the album he mentions how much of a proud father he is and expresses the massive discontent he has with anyone coming in between that. He devotes whole tracks to those who suffer with “Feel Ya Pain” and “Victim’s Story”. In “A.M.E.R.I.C.A. (The Truth Part 3)” he says one of the most profound quotes I’ve ever heard on a track,

Teach your kids to think critically instead of memorise
― “A.M.E.R.I.C.A. (Truth Part 3)” by Diabolic

This part of Diabolic’s album is like the musical offspring of legends like Immortal Technique and Ice Cube.
Overall, in evaluation of the Fightin’ Words album, one’s favor feels that tug of war. On one side Diabolic is easily defined as a status quo member of that rugged underground shock-value spitter. On the opposing side, here’s a rapper with very expressed passions in his lyrics and a moderately impressive ability to just rhyme.
Pretty cold album here.
Favorites: “Game Time” “Here We Go”

Itzme Review: Common – Nobody’s Smiling

Nobody’s Smiling is Common’s comeback in an age where Chicago’s hip hop scene is incredibly active and furthermore has a negative image centered around violence. In this joint he grazes the topic of the suffering of Chicagoans due to crime, drugs, and violence. Such parts are the highlight of the album, in contrast to most of the rest of it.
“The Neighborhood”, “Kingdom”, “No Fear”, “Nobody’s Smiling” (the song), all embody the spirit of the album. They carry much of the weight of the album. These songs are stories or settings that give a vivid view of the street life in Chicago, and the real feelings of someone personally dealing with it. Lil Herb’s verse is the ideal representation. In the opening tracks he supercedes Common with so much heart, in a way that cannot be described. You’d have to hear his voice. Even beyond such delivery, lines like

I’ve been out there three days and I got shot at three times
Felt like every bullet hit me when they flew out each nine
I be happy when I wake up and I have a free mind

― “The Neighborhood” by Common

draw empathy from listeners.
The filler is hardly as impressive as a whole. There are decent moments, though, such as “Hustle Harder” which is the typical “yeah she’s the baddest chick” type of track. Common showcases a lot more flair and flow in that track than most of the rest of the album. The song as a whole (including Dreezy’s verse) has a sassy groove to it. The premise bears familiarity to fellow Chicagoan MC Tree’s song “Uh Million.” In the filler part of the album, Common also swings a decent braggadose with “Blak Majik” and “Speak My Piece”. The former features some aight melodic spitting from Jhene Aiko.
It only gets worse from there. The other unthemed moments are simply painful. “Diamonds” just seems to be put in to include a former labelmate. Sean’s chorus is light on the catchy, and heavy on the annoying with the wailing and cartoony yelps. The song as a whole just doesn’t earn its existence. Even Common’s bars come across as dull and uninspired, as forecasted by his opening line:

I wrote this on my born day, it was a warm day
― “Diamonds” by Common

They come across this way in a lot of parts throughout the album too, not just “Diamonds”. In “Rewind That” despite the emotional connection to the topic, he struggles with parts of his verses, sounding like an amateur.
A lot of the young rap features shined over the vet. As previously stated, Lil Herb did his thing with the delivery; Malik Yusef showed off killer wordplay with his spoken word; Vince Staples’ verse was rhythmically impressive. Non-coincidentally, these are among the best songs on the album and fit into the main idea behind Nobody’s Smiling. In interest of “quality control” one could say this album was better off as a 4-track EP that focused on the theme. The extra songs just weigh it down to mediocrity.
Nobody’s Smiling gives a slight breeze from its peak.
Favorites: “Kingdom” “The Neighborhood”
Terrible Songs: “Diamonds” “Diamonds” “Diamonds” and “Diamonds”

OWLKINGLORD – XXX XXX XXX the mixtape

The artist formerly known as Brandyn Jaye finally puts together his first project post new moniker. With the name change comes a whole new style to match. Several songs come with a gothic feeling, much akin to his genius dual single Second Circle/Angel. But then it also wavers back into his original, less-dark style.

Mick Jenkins – The Water[s]

Chicago’s own Mick Jenkins has something for you. An interesting concept album themed around the truth, represented as H2O-the essential chemical for all living beings. “The Water[s]” showcases Jenkins’ skill in syntactic manipulation, aggressive rapping, and underlying conscious messages.