Itzme Review: Ab Soul – These Days…

Ab-Soul has his sophomore album release after two years. Many have come to love and enjoy Ab’s music by being introduced through the “Ab-Soul Outro” on Section.80, and his excellent last release Control System. Besides being associated with a popular group of emcees, he’s also known for his cleverness in his lyrics. Despite this, Ab-Soul has failed to deliver on his new album after proving himself so well. Let me take you to a land void of any profoundness, creativity, soul, and personality (and overpopulated with obscure Jesus comparisons); the place on the cover art.

I don't even think a roach can survive out there

Just look at it, there’s no support of life.

These Days is jam-packed with cliché and unoriginality. A prime example is the halfway point of the album, “TWACT”, where listeners are given a My Krazy Life reject song with a corny catchphrase that’s doomed to never catch on. On “World Runners” Ab-Soul shows you how well he can mimic a mainstream faux-inspirational rap song. Even with the song’s blurred message, he manages to come across extremely preachy. Soul even directly copies his groupmate Kendrick Lamar with the “Kendrick Lamar Interlude” the antithesis of the Ab-Soul outro.

The lack of creativity doesn’t just stop with the mimicry, but also in damn near every single chorus/bridge on the whole album. The majority of the hooks on the album consist of Ab-Soul repeating a very short phrase over and over and over and over again. And even on the ones with a little variation (emphasis on little), they fail to cross the line from annoying to catchy. Hooks are only one part of the song, but Ab made sure to put this in his verses as well. The automatic skip and epic streak-ender of the “Druggys with Hoes” series known as “Hunnid Stacks”, features two of the same verses by the same rapper–oh wait…

“Feelin’ Us” also repeats the cycle of painful repetition to the maximum with the quadruplets of “raise your hands, say Soulo hoe” and “now mama don’t cry no mo’” randomly slapped in the middle of his verses.

The part where this redundancy fails where most hip-pop tracks don’t fail as hard, is that the latter’s beats are usually more moving. A handful of beats on her are pretty good, but none exceed any expectations.

Ab-Soul struggles with structure in his latest release. Proof is the scatterbrained-ness of “Nevermind That” with BJ the Chicago Kid singing so sweetly at the most random times. “Nevermind That” just screams tourrettes, with its left-field breaks and tempo. There’s also the needlessly long beat ride-outs on “Ride Slow”. The biggest surprise of These Days is that almost all the songs are aimless and have no feeling. In the Black-lip Pastor’s previous works, he were a lot of self-expressive works: songs like “Book of Soul” and “Be A Man”. As mentioned in the intro, this album is void of that.

I don't even think a roach can survive out there

I don’t even think a roach can survive out there

Fortunately, the song “Closure” prevents the album from being completely soulless. It’s actually one of the few good songs on the project, which is ironic because it’s an all singing song on a rap album.

“Tree of Life” sounds like an adventurous soundtrack to Ab’s exploration of the multiple definitions of “tree”. “Stigmata” was a rather appropriate title single to the album, especially when it cut out the ending verses for the video, because it’s a pretty good beat and verse with an epic hook that goes against the grain of this album.

“Ride Slow” features the Hybrid picking up slack with a verse that takes you back the good times of 2012, when he wrecked every instrumental he spit on. And the album ends with a rap battle where clever bars are exchanged between Ab and Daylyt—something different. These moments are to few and far between to redeem all the faults of These Days, however.

One can really tell that an album is lacking when it’s more exciting to talk about why it was bad, than to talk about the actual album itself. There are plenty of theories,

absoultweet

but at the end of the day the album remains disappointing. It contains a few rare peeks of what Soul is actually capable of. Perhaps These Days is Ab-Soul’s discographical death so he can rise again.

Room temperature at best.

Favorite Songs: “Closure” “Tree of Life” “Stigmata” “Just Have Fun” Danny Brown’s verse in “Ride Slow”

Songs That Blew Me: Almost everything else

Stay Frosty.

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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: Kanye West – Yeezus

Kanye West makes a hilarious venture into experimental sound with his new album, Yeezus. People have been anticipating this for a while as Kanye just has an incredible shock value to his person. He continues the shock value with his difference in production from his previous work, although it’s not exactly new if you’re musically cultured. But who am I?

heh

When I say this album is hilarious, I’m talking about most of the vocal aspects to it. For the most part Kanye’s lyrics are straightforward and rather simplistic, and in some cases very mediocre. On “I’m In It”, Mr. Hoover West is talking about eating da butt and cunnilingus on Asians with sweet and sour sauce. Then he has Chief Keef as a feature sounding like a drunken child singing something he took a whole two seconds to think up. “AAAH CAN’ HADNOW MAH LICK-UHHHH, BUH DEEZ B** CAND HANDOW MIEIEEEE!!!”

And honestly, there are moments like this all over the album. I was literally cracking up most of the time I was listening to Yeezus.

“But I got her back in, put my d** in her mouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuth”

But then he also has some decent lyrical moments, or conceptual more specifically. “Black Skinheads” is one of the better tracks on the album where he’s just expressing a bunch of anti-racist sentiments, and sort of responding to the criticisms to him that are generally what other judgmental blacks would say. “New Slaves” is also another good song conceptually and in general (my favorite on the album by far). In that song he speaks of materialism and how the big heads in industries and labels use materialism to control the artists or whoever else they’re exploiting. He also had a few good punchlines here and there like “She got more n** off than Cock-ran”. Personally I never considered Kanye much of a pure rapper as much as a songmaker and producer anyway, so this is no surprise to me, there are slight disappointments and slight surprises in his lyricism (even though the latter was likely written by someone else). *coughcough

The production on this album had its up and downs as well, but none too high or low. One thing that stuck out about it is that some of the songs sound like those he’s done before. The beginning and hook parts of “Hold My Liquor” sound awfully similar to “Lost in the World”, and the other part sounds like “Stronger”.

There’s also a few instances of overproduction in that song, like the fact that Chief Keef had to have autotune and all that other random stuff going on in his parts, like if he really wanted to drown out Keef’s voice that bad he could’ve just not had him on the track. The transitions in “I’m In It” are hella unfocused too, it just sounds like he made like three different songs then tried to mash them together and had to do awkward stuff like add random screams to make them sound right. “Send It Up” has this really obnoxious digital zap at the end of the song that feels poorly executed, and Beenie Man’s melody doesn’t exactly match the beat it’s over. On the upside, several of the instrumentals simply sound great and are what you’d expect from Yeezy, like “Blood On the Leaves” which has an excellent sample choice and the drop is oh so nice. “New Slaves” has a fantastic melody that you’d probably catch someone doing the dougie to sometime in the near future if you haven’t already. As a matter of fact, “Hold My Liquor” and “I’m In It” were the only flubs on the production end.

Ye’s overindulgence can get a little annoying now and then though. “Blood On the Leaves” was ruined by a nonstop dose of his migraine-inducing singing through autotune. There was also the many aforementioned unnecessary transitions throughout the project that hurt the quality of Yeezus. And of course, the lyrics, which were hilarious and underwhelming at times, and at others

But Kanye makes it a goal to show you how much he “doesn’t give a f**”. The lyrics in “I’m In It” had a lot of personality and typical Ye charisma. In “Bound 2” he also displays high levels of ignorance like saying he doesn’t remember when he first met his girl nonchalantly. While these moments add a lot of Kanye’s persona into them, they don’t feel like there was much thought and effort behind them. That lack of effort shows throughout the whole album.

What’s likely the most anticipated and popular thing to come from hip-hop this year was pretty average. I feel its decentness was contributed to by simply lack of concern. Kanye is very talented at production and relating to people and it shows in this, but he didn’t seem to care enough to fine tune this album or come up with great ideas. The lyricism seems awful lazy. The production, while often good, doesn’t seem greatly envisioned and seems more of like playing with sounds. Still Kanye hasn’t fallen off, and the direction he’s taking in his music doesn’t seem as uncomfortable for him as many would think it is.

Album Grade: C