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”

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M.J. Withers – Past Times and Hard Liquor

Past times and hard liquor, it gets realer. You ain’t never heard nobody exemplify the dark and deep sound like M.J. Withers. Few artists can summon such passion, and emotion in their stuff. Additional M.J. has an incredible composing talent with putting the right sounds in the right places.

Itzme Spotlight: Cayan

Wassup ya’ll itzme, da diabolical, da rap connoisseur. I’m gonna introduce ya’ll to one of my favorite, and, in my opinion, one of the best local hip-hop artists today.  I first heard Cayan when I listened to this project called Truman Drive that my homie CJ the Genesis was on (If you haven’t heard it check it out now). And eventually I hear this guy who has this sort of sore-throaty kind of voice with a chill and laid-back flow. The result was one of the coolest deliveries I’ve ever heard.

Along with that he has a lot of subtle wordplay and quotable lyrics. If I smoked, I’d probably say the majority of his songs are good smoking music.

One of the best examples of this style is in his song leaders, where he shows some of that wordplay I was talking about. Saying:

“Brittle a** n*ggas always seem to be the hardest

In a Jiffy, we see where you’re peanut butter hardens

Damn skippy, I see where them Peter Pan jars is

What you mean charge us?

We da damn artists!”

And then goes on a consistent flux of words in his patented smooth cadence. His lyrics are also very enlightened and have a whole bunch of individuality messages in them.

If you like rappers like Curren$y or Wiz and Casey on their chill tip, you’ll love this guy. And even if you just like hip-hop in general you should definitely check this dude out. He has several projects out, and just released a new EP titled “Hibachi” today. You can listen to that here:

Southern Movement

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Another one of my predictions have appeared to me. From the recent trend of what’s going on with southern rap, southern rappers, and their music I have came to a conclusion. There’s going to be a huge southern movement in hip-hop soon. Like, they’re gonna take over the game again for a little bit. This situation resembles an earthquake that shook waaaayyyyy out at sea that only I know about and it’s sending a tidal wave coming full speed at the rap game, but its still offshore so people are just like whatever and not noticing it or whatever.

I’m serious though, the driving force behind this movement, I’d have to say is Big K.R.I.T. In 2010 and 2011 Big K.R.I.T. had a big buzz with his mixtapes, they were pretty much on everyone’s top 5 lists for those respective years; and to me “Return of 4eva” was one of, if not THE best mixtape I’ve ever heard. Fast forward a little bit and K.R.I.T. has a little less buzz than he’s had before, I mean people are still messing with him he certainly hasn’t fell off, but he’s not as much of a huge factor. I feel this is going to change soon, because I’m sure this southern emcee is aware of the criticism of his last album. I believe that this guy feels he has something to prove. Why? Well have you heard his verse on “1 Train”? (and check this out) Among other songs. K.R.I.T. has been everywhere lately, almost on a “rise of 2chainz” level with his features. And not only has he been everywhere, he’s been doing damage, killing the majority of the tracks and if not still having the song to be quite impressive and that’s just his rapping. Before now, K.R.I.T.’s premiere attraction was the fact that he was a great producer, but right now his rapping is top notch and I really can’t think of anyone who’s been crashing tracks as well as him since this year started.

Aside from that Mississippi emcee you also have another one, Tito Lopez, who hasn’t reeeaaally been getting much buzz, but I can see him going in that direction with a rising star award from HHDX and a relatively known feature track with K.R.I.T. and Joker. The other southern states making a statement is the Carolinas. Rapsody is coming off the momentum of a very good and well-acclaimed album, in my experience it didn’t really get noticed much (definitely not like it should’ve been noticed), but it’s enough to put her in people’s mouths. Along with her, you have the internet sensation Don Dada, or Alpoko Don coming out with his album tomorrow. I’m really excited about that, but at the same time blown because I’m broke. Anyway, his project has incredible potential. Looking at his videos, Don has incredible composing skills, can make a great hook, do a good verse with wordplay concepts good cadence and all of that; so if he even meets a majority of that potential then he’s going to make huge splashes in this game. Lastly, from SC we have this group called OXYxMORON who I’ve pretty much been listening to nonstop since I’ve heard of them; and pretty much feel like I’ve been living under a rock for not having heard of them. These guys not only have amazing talent I see taking them far even without their recent “cosign” from The Needle Drop owner, Anthony Fantano who has a relatively large following on the internet. On top of all that, it seems like amazing producer, 9th Wonder is getting real chummy with his region.

Besides that it’s really just a lot of little stuff going on. A-town rapper, Killer Mike should also have a lot of momentum from his last album which was pretty much in everyone’s top 3 for last year. K.R.I.T. has been networking a lot if you use his Instagram and recent features as a reference. A lot of other southern hip-hoppers are also networking. I’m very interested to see if my prediction comes true, because it’s surely justified.

#7 Apollo Brown & O.C. – Trophies

This album brings back the sound of the late ‘90s/early 2000s, but it does it in a way that sounds so good and really just lets the sound reenter the hip-hop scene. It’s no news that Apollo Brown is an amazing producer and O.C. raps with an O.G. style that doesn’t feel preachy or like “well back in my day”. Just sounds tight.

Like I said this is on some early Dilated Peoples, Jurassic 5, Black Star, basically just millennium era rap. The “special” part about this album is that it does that, but it’s not like on some dated stuff. Kinda like how Joey Bada$$ is with his style, except O.C. is his name with a G and without da C instead of a young’un. Simple math: Seasoned rapper + Bomb producer = great album.

I can’t stress enough of how O.C. is an O.G., like if you ever talked to or had an O.G. he’d remind you him. Like “Anotha One” is on some old people’s ish, it’s not like a Currensy or Wiz smoke song. And then, “We the People” O.C. is talking about some Kumbaya stuff with people doing each other wrong and how we need to take a stand with each other, but he don’t sound like he’s on some kiddy “world peace”, when you let a lil kid do the prayer stuff; but on the experience tip.

“I’m the the same boat, tryna stay afloat.

tryna take my own advice from the rhymes that I write”

This emcee of this duo is also proficient in his concepts. You got “Nautica” where he’s comparing himself to natural disasters and “The Pursuit” in which his rhymes are all related to cars.

The production, I couldn’t begin to explain how and why its so good, but it just has that early underground 2000’s sound to it. They all sound real… chimy. It’s a nice difference from the sound today, because it’s different from that big bass industry sound, or that electro fusion sound some people been into lately.

And with that you have a modern retrospective in music. Now enjoy my favorite track of this jahnt.