Concert preview: J. Cole

For any hip hop fan that has lived in Salt Lake City for a couple years, it becomes increasingly obvious that we aren’t exactly a hot spot for hip hop artists to perform in. On a yearly basis we get one or maybe two or three big shows if we’re lucky. That means we have a shortage of genuine rap superstars rolling through our town when they’re on the road.  I’m not saying Salt Lake City doesn’t have a great local music scene or plenty of smaller artists that come to perform here (because we do have quite a bit of both), I’m saying that the amount of huge artists that tour in our city is unfortunately very low.

Once we do get those huge hip hop tour announcements, it feels like Christmas for fans. Our first instance of a big name announcing a show here this year happened in May, when J. Cole announced his KOD (Kids On Drugs/Kill Our Demons/King Overdosed) Tour. This concert is going to be one for the books, especially because it’s Cole’s first visit to Salt Lake City since the 2014 Forest Hills Drive Tour a couple years back. But before we get to the main event, let’s go over the opening acts and other important information.

Important info

This concert takes place on Saturday September 8th, 2018 at 7:30pm. The concert takes place in downtown Salt Lake City, at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The address for the arena is 301 S Temple. I’d suggest arriving early for this show if you want a decent parking spot, because parking is a pain around the arena.

Another good thing to remember for this show is that because it’s J. Cole, one of the top most popular acts right now in the hip hop world, you shouldn’t wait any longer to get your tickets to see him. They will sell at a rapid pace in the days leading up to the show, so don’t sleep on it.  

Opening acts

One of the most special things about this tour is the variety and quality that J. Cole is bringing with him in terms of the opening acts. These acts include EarthGang, Jaden Smith, and Young Thug. If you are unfamiliar with these artists, check out the section below for some info on them and a couple of their tracks to check out before the show.

EarthGang

These guys are the least well-known of the artists that will be performing at the show, but by no means does that mean that they aren’t a quality hip hop group. This group has been around for about 10 years now, but gained a lot of notoriety by being signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville label in 2017. Here’s a few of their tracks to check out, and if you like what you hear, give them a follow on their social media accounts. Be on the lookout for their performance on the Colors YouTube channel on September 4th as well!

“Missed Calls” – EarthGang

“Meditate” – EarthGang

Jaden Smith

If you don’t know who Jaden Smith is, you might be living under a rock. He’s the son of the famous actor Will Smith, but that isn’t all he’s known for. Smith has been making music since 2010 and has steadily gained a following for it. He released numerous mixtapes before finally unleashing his debut album SYRE in November of 2017. The album is full of good tracks, here are some to check out before you see Jaden Smith perform.

“Breakfast” – Jaden Smith ft. ASAP Rocky

“Icon” – Jaden Smith

Young Thug

Last but not least on our list of openers is Atlanta’s own Young Thug. He is a mainstay in the trap scene, and is known for being ambitious with his beat selection. In recent years he’s released projects such as Jeffery, Beautiful Thugger Girls, and most recently Slime Language. He’s also known for his publicity stunts that generate hype for his projects. If you somehow haven’t listened to any Young Thug tracks before, here are a few that will possibly be performed during his set. If you like what you hear from these tracks, I urge you listen to the masterpiece that is Beautiful Thugger Girls before you see him in concert.  

“Best Friend” – Young Thug

“Relationship” – Young Thug ft. Future

Main act

After all of the opening acts finish their sets, it’ll finally be J. Cole’s moment. Seeing as it is the KOD Tour, most of the tracks that we will probably hear him perform will be from that album. On the off chance that you haven’t listened to that album yet, listen to it immediately. If you’ve heard it, I encourage you to re-listen before you head to the show. It’s a great album and it’ll be even better live.

Even though this is the KOD Tour, we will most definitely hear some of Cole’s older tracks such as “Fire Squad”, “Work Out”, “No Role Modelz”, “Deja Vu”, and many others.

This show is shaping up to be really special, so if you’re a J. Cole fan and don’t have a ticket yet, do everything you can to get one. You’re not gonna want to miss this one.  

Image courtesy of  _cbudd/pixabay.com

Rapaversary: Stay Trippy by Juicy J

Hip hop, like many other genres, is simply vast in the amount of artists, styles, and albums that are encompassed within it. Because it is so huge, listeners often forget about albums, mixtapes, and songs shortly after they are released. This is a shame because there is so much great hip hop out there that flies under the radar because it isn’t brand new. One project that was seemingly forgotten by many hip hop fans is Juicy J’s Stay Trippy album, which celebrated its fifth birthday this week after being released on August 23rd, 2013.

Juicy’s third solo album

After distancing himself from Three 6 Mafia in order to focus on his solo career, Juicy J announced this project in 2012 in conjunction with the release of his single “Bandz A Make Her Dance” featuring 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne. The album was announced shortly after he signed with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang label, making it his first release under the label.

“Bandz A Make Her Dance” was received well, topping out at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 song chart. Later in 2012, Juicy announced that Stay Trippy was delayed until 2013.

The announcement of his album dropping in 2013 set Juicy up for a big year. He released singles “Show Out” and “Bounce It” during the lead up to the release date of August 23rd. When the album finally released, it debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The new project sold 64,000 copies in its first week. Featured artists on the album included Wiz Khalifa, Chris Brown, The Weeknd, ASAP Rocky, and many more.    

Notable tracks

With the success that the pre-released singles gained, the album definitely shaped up quite well into a great effort.

“Bandz A Make Her Dance” – Juicy J ft. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne

You had to expect that this one would be a standout. On this track, we hear Juicy J, 2 Chainz, and Lil Wayne go in over some classic Mike Will Made-It production. This is Juicy’s highest-ever charting solo track, and for good reason. It’s truly the quintessential party anthem of 2013, and continues to get heavy plays to this day.

“The Woods” – Juicy J ft. Justin Timberlake  

One of the things that makes this track standout from the rest of Juicy’s discography is that it sounds so different from everything else he’s done besides his features on pop tracks. It’s got a smooth hook from JT, some dope verses from Juicy, and a Timbaland beat. So what’s not to love? If you’re looking for a track that’s chock full of chill vibes but also has Juicy’s distinct flow, this is the track for you.

“Talkin’ Bout” – Juicy J ft. Wiz Khalifa and Chris Brown

This has always been a personal favorite track of mine from Stay Trippy. The hook with Wiz and Juicy is smooth as butter, and catchy too. You’ll have it stuck in your head for the rest of the day after you hear this song. We also get to hear a surprisingly good rap verse from the one and only Chris Brown. This is also a good track for that party playlist, as is most of this album.

Wrap up

Overall, Juicy J’s Stay Trippy is one of the better hip hop albums that dropped in 2011 and it stands the test of time. It still sounds as fresh as it did the day it dropped. If you have yet to take a listen to this project, I’d suggest doing so. And if you want to get more into Juicy J’s music, check out his old stuff with Three 6 Mafia as well as his other solo projects. Happy rapaversary Stay Trippy!

Image owned by Juicy J/Taylor Gang/Kemosabe/Columbia

Album Review – Life’s A Trip

For those who are unfamiliar with the name Trippie Redd, let me give you a little introduction. He’s a Canton, Ohio hip hop artist that has been making music for about 4 years now. He started blowing up in 2016, with his biggest year yet being 2017. He has ties to artists such as XXXTENTACION, 6ix9ine, Travis Scott, and many more.

Redd is known for his nasty flows, but also his light singing voice. He’s an artist that brings a lot of variety on each project. He has released 2 mixtapes before this album, which are called A Love Letter To You and A Love Letter To You 2. These mixtapes were received well by the hip hop community, but left them with some questions about Trippie.

Some of these questions include: is he a one-hit wonder, can he create a serious project, and does he have longevity in the music industry? Let’s dig in and see if Trippie Redd can answer any of these questions for us on his debut album.

First impressions

  • The Good: One thing that I noticed during my first listen through this project is that Trippie really showed off his full artistic range. Each song sounds different and brings a different vibe to the project, which is what makes it shine.  
  • The Bad: The only thing that I see as a negative right now is that some of the songs are really short, sometimes painfully so. There are tracks that are absolutely terrific but are only 2 minutes. I hope in the future Trippie fleshes out his tracks a bit more than he did on this album.

Lyrics/Flow

  • The Good: As I said before, each track is wildly different than the previous or next one. With a difference in sound, there is usually a difference in lyrical content. That is certainly true for this album. Whether it’s a straight rap track about his street hussle or a lighter track about his feelings, Redd explores different topics very well. In addition to the lyrical content on this album, he also brings out a few different flows that keep it interesting. He has his braggadocious flow on some of the tracks, and uses his beautiful singing voice on others. It’s really a good mix and I think it contributes to the album as a whole.  
  • The Bad: Even though each track does sound different and contain different lyrics than each other, that doesn’t mean that everything we hear on this project is different from his older music. I’ve already heard about how many chains and women you have Trippie, I’d like to hear more about your childhood and experiences instead.  
  • Score: 7.4/10

Beats

  • The Good: If you’ve never listened to Trippie Redd before, he’s an artist that is really ambitious in terms of the beats that he raps/sings over. He chooses anything between a hard trap beat or a soft and soulful R&B-type beat and somehow pulls them off. The same is true for this project, as we see him fit well over every beat while also sprinkling in a little something new.  
  • The Bad: Honestly, I don’t have anything bad to say about the beats on this album. Trippie fits quite well over them and clearly knows what he is doing with his beat selection. I hope he can keep this up throughout his career, because he’s already on the right path at 19 years old.
  • Score: 8.4/10

Replayability

  • The Good: As I’ve previously stated, this album has a lot of different sounds on it. This definitely helps the replayability. I’d rather listen to an album like this that has many different sounds than something that sounds too similar throughout. If this is your first Trippie Redd project, I think it is a worthy introduction to him that can be listened through multiple times without too much effort. It definitely doesn’t drag on, especially with the short tracks.
  • The Bad: The only bad thing I can really say about the replayability of this project is that there is a severe lack of features and it can get a bit tiring listening to Trippie Redd exclusively- save a few features here and there- for a whole 46 minutes. This is especially true if you are skeptical on if you even like him in the first place. A few more features would have probably done him a bit of good for this section of the review.    
  • Score: 7.5/10

Standouts

  • Honestly, all of the songs on this album deserve to be listened to and I think that Trippie picked the perfect amount. But telling you to listen to all of the tracks on the album isn’t the point of this section of the review. The tracks that stand out to me the most are “Taking A Walk”, “Missing My Idols”, “Oomps Revenge”, and “How You Feel”.

Final thoughts

I’ll be honest; when I first started listening to Trippie Redd, I wasn’t sure if he had it in him to create a project like this one. I saw him as just another Soundcloud rapper that was all about the money and didn’t care about the artistic aspect of music. But I can admit when I was wrong, and I was wrong about Trippie.

After listening to the album all the way through 3 times, I can say that I’m thoroughly impressed with what Trippie gave us. It contains depth for those who like more personal music and bangers for those who listen to Trippie while partying. The album is so full of variety, and I think that’s what impressed me the most.

I believe that this album is exactly what any artist should go for on their debut album. They should try to show everything they can bring to the table, but still leave some room for more artistic growth in the future. Trippie did just that with this project and it deserves praise. While this album probably won’t do huge first week numbers compared to his Soundcloud brethren, it ranks among  the best projects released from that generation for sure.

This album deserves the attention of hip hop fans everywhere. It may not  be for everyone, but it is absolutely a quality album that I think will age well. Trippie Redd delivered a solid debut album that was exactly what I was looking for, save a few minor things. Here’s to Trippie seeing much more success in the future and continuing to drop quality projects.    

Final Score: 7.6/10

Image owned by Trippie Redd and TenThousand Projects LLC  

On The Rise: Trippie Redd

One of the best things about hip hop is the diversity in sound and musical styles, as well as the multitude of different artists to discover and listen to. This is especially true with the newest generation of hip hop artists, commonly referred to as “Soundcloud rappers”. Some popular “Soundcloud rappers” include Trippie Redd, 6ix9ine, Lil Pump, Smokepurpp, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, and the late XXXTENTACION. But for this post, we’re going to be focusing on Trippie Redd.

Trippie Redd, born Michael White IV, is a 19 year old up-and-coming hip hop artist hailing from Canton, Ohio. Redd first started to dabble in music while he was in high school, releasing a few tracks on Soundcloud before deleting them. It was only in 2016 that Trippie consistently posted and kept his tracks up on the music sharing platform, steadily gaining followers.

Rise in popularity

His big breakthrough happened in May 2017 with the release of his debut mixtape A Love Letter To You and its lead single “Love Scars”, which gained him the national attention of hip hop publications and fans. Later that year, he was featured on XXXTENTACION’s debut album 17 on the track “F*** Love”. The track reached the 41st position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, his career high thus far.

In October 2017 Redd released his second mixtape, A Love Letter To You II. The mixtape was well received, debuting at number 34 on the Billboard 200 album chart. He then capped off a successful breakthrough year by releasing “Dark Knight Dummo” featuring Travis Scott. The track peaked at number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 2018, Redd continued to gain notoriety by appearing on the track “Wish” off popular producer Diplo’s California EP. He has also released a variety of solo tracks including “UKA UKA”, “I Kill People!”, “Me Likey”, and “How You Feel”, all of which have millions of listens on Soundcloud and YouTube.

But with popularity often comes drama, as we have seen Trippie Redd in the news due to his beefs with 6ix9ine and XXXTENTACION. He reconciled with the latter, but is still currently beefing with the former.

Why you should give him a chance

Recently due to the influx of new music that we receive at any given moment, it is often hard to choose which new artists to give our attention to. Luckily, there will always be someone that has listened to a particular artist and will be able to fill you in on if the artist is worth listening to or not.

Before you dismiss Trippie Redd because of the controversial things you have heard about similar artists such as 6ix9ine, XXXTENTACION, and others, I want you to know that despite what you think about someone, music is a form of expression and you should give their music a chance regardless of what pre-existing assumptions you may have about them.

Once you listen to Trippie Redd, it is quite evident that he is a very talented and versatile artist. He has the ability to create straight rap tracks in which he shows off a variety of flows, and he can also create more R&B-esque tracks that show off his powerful singing voice. He can switch between the two on a dime, and it makes for some really interesting results. And at only 19 years old, there is nowhere for Redd to go but up in terms of artistic development.

Notable songs

As a young artist, not all of Trippie Redd’s music may be accessible to everyone as he is still working on his sound. But below I’ve included a few of what I view as some of his most accessible and best tracks that potential fans should listen to.

“Love Scars” – Trippie Redd

This is the perfect track to start a new Trippie listener off on. It shows off his impressive singing and rapping abilities, while also being short enough to listen to multiple times. It isn’t my personal favorite Trippie song, but it is definitely an essential part of his discography thus far.

“Poles1469” – Trippie Redd ft. 6ix9ine

This track is a straight banger, and probably the hardest track in Trippie’s discography. Once again, it shows off his impressive melodic tendencies while also showing off his bars. The 6ix9ine feature is also pretty good too, and a good way to get into his music. I’d say that this is one of Trippie’s most notable tracks, while also being pretty good to boot.

“F*** Love” – XXXTENTACION ft. Trippie Redd  

While this isn’t Trippie’s song, it is definitely his most well-known feature on another artist’s song. What I love about Trippie’s part, and actually the song as a whole, is the pure emotion that you can hear in both artists’ voices. This track really shows the power that Trippie’s voice holds and I hope he sings like this on more tracks in the future.

“In Too Deep” – Trippie Redd

In all honesty, A Love Letter To You II is where I believe that Trippie really started refining and perfecting the sound that he has been going for. This song is a perfect example of that refined sound of his. There is an even mix of singing and rapping on this track, both of which sound amazing. This is definitely a fan favorite, so let’s pray that Trippie can capture this magic again on forthcoming releases.

“I Kill People!” – Trippie Redd ft. Chief Keef & Tadoe

Honestly, this track is really what Trippie does best. Those insane melodies, that catchy hook, and some good guest verses makes for a great song in my book. This is one that’ll be stuck in your head as soon as you hear it. Believe me, it happens to me all the time.

What’s next?

Up next for Trippie is the release of his long-awaited debut album Life’s A Trip. The project is slated to have 14 tracks and clock in at about 50 minutes in length. I think we’re going to get something special this time around in Trippie’s latest project, so give it a listen if you like what you’ve heard from him so far! Be sure to keep an eye out for my review of the Life’s A Trip album as well.

Image property of Ralph Arvesen/flickr.com  

 

Album Review – Astroworld

After a ridiculously long 3 year waiting period, Travis Scott has finally released his new album Astroworld. This project is named after Six Flags’ Astroworld, an amusement park that used to be a Houston landmark. The park was regularly attended by Scott as a child until it was closed and demolished in 2005. Scott has mentioned that he wants this new album to sound like “taking an amusement park away from kids”. He then went on to say “We want it back… That’s why I’m doing it. It took the fun out of the city”.

Travis Scott has been a figure in the hip hop scene for about 6 years now, gaining prominence and notoriety from everything to the vibes and atmosphere he brings on his tracks, to the wild live performances that he is quite proud of. He is known mainly for his popular tracks including “Antidote”, “Butterfly Effect”, and “Goosebumps”.

Now that he is finally in the mainstream eye, it is time for Travis Scott to deliver another progressive new album that sees him discussing new topics and continuing his experimental style. Let’s dig in and see what he has given us this time around.

First impressions

  • The Good: During my first listen through this album, I was absolutely amazed at how well-produced and well-thought-out each song was. The production was absolutely beautiful and contained quite a bit of variety, and each track flowed together really well. Travis fit very well over every beat on this project. The features were perfect as well and didn’t outshine Travis, they only added value to each song.
  • The Bad: Even though every song is very good and fun to listen to, the project isn’t perfect. I don’t see too much of a theme so far, even though this project is billed up to be “a look at what goes on inside Travis’ mind”. Maybe this will change with more listens, but right now I don’t see the concept very clearly.

Lyrics/Flow

  • The Good: If you’ve listened to or even heard of Travis Scott before, it is quite obvious that he isn’t exactly known for being the best lyrical rapper. But on this album, we hear him use different flows from his usual couple that we’ve heard quite often. We also hear him discuss new topics that we’ve never heard him speak on before. Topics such as his love life, his daughter, and things that he has experienced in his life are high points of this project. Some of these introspective and deep tracks on this project that bring out Travis’ best side are “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD”, “COFFEE BEAN”, and “ASTROTHUNDER”.
  • The Bad: Even with the new topics and flows that we hear from La Flame on this project, I didn’t expect him to completely stray away from what he’s been doing for quite some time. He stays heavy on the ad libs throughout the project, as well as similar flows and lyrics on some of the songs. Examples of the not-exactly-experimental songs on this album include “5% TINT”, “NC-17”, and “BUTTERFLY EFFECT”.Score: 8.5/10

Beats

  • The Good: In case you didn’t realize this at any point over the past 6 years of Travis releasing music, he is an amazing producer himself and also works with amazing producers. The beats on this album are where it shines the most, and that is no insult to Travis’ or any of the featured artists’ lyrics. The beats are seriously that good. There are so many layers to all of them, along with a crazy amount of beat switches on different tracks. This project will keep you on the edge of your seat while listening, purely by the anticipation of what the next track will sound like. Some of the producers that contributed to this project include Travis himself, Hit-Boy, 30 Roc, CuBeatz, Sonny Digital, Tay Keith, Mike Dean, and WondaGurl.
  • The Bad: Once again, I didn’t expect every single track on this album to be a brand new style of production that we’ve never heard Cactus Jack over before. There are a few tracks that aren’t as experimental or out there as others. Some of these similar tracks include “HOUSTONFORNICATION”, “NO BYSTANDERS”, and “CAN’T SAY”.Score: 9.3/10

Replayability

  • The Good: As I mentioned before, this is an album that contains a lot of sound variety. There is something for every mood and setting; from partying, chilling, raging, etc. It’s the full package in that regard. There are things that we have never heard from Travis before and we hear him being experimental and being true to himself. This album is definitely one you’ll want to listen through in its entirety more than once.
  • The Bad: In my past reviews, I often knock artists for having too many tracks on their albums and Travis is no exception to that, unfortunately. If I had to cut this album down to about 14 tracks, I would probably remove “5% TINT”, “BUTTERFLY EFFECT”, and “CAN’T SAY”. These tracks aren’t necessarily bad, but they are definitely the weakest tracks on the album in terms of the concept that Travis was going for. I’d still recommend listening to the full album more than once, but it is understandable if it is a bit long for your taste.Score: 7.7/10

Standouts

  • This is always the hardest part of a review, especially when you have such an amazing album like this one. If I had to choose the tracks that stand out from the rest, they would have to be “SICKO MODE”, STOP TRYING TO BE GOD”, “ASTROTHUNDER”, and “R.I.P. SCREW”. We see Travis at his most ambitious on these tracks; switching beats, covering new topics, and dropping new flows.

Final thoughts

I’m going to say this right now, Astroworld is not perfect. But I’d be lying if I say that it isn’t 100% what I wanted to hear from Travis Scott after his lackluster 2016 sophomore album Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight.
On this new project, we hear him at his most experimental since his mixtape days. He stays true to himself in every way and shows growth and maturity by talking about his personal life and struggles that he has had, all while making it sound incredible. This growth and maturity is always important for any genre of artist, but it seems especially important for hip hop artists.

The album does suffer a little bit from the use of similar concepts, song structures, and beats reminiscent of his last few releases, but this isn’t nearly a big enough problem to warrant a bad final score. Just by listening to this project, you can tell that La Flame really pushed the artistic envelope and truly gave it his all, while also creating tracks that fans of his old work will love too.

I won’t say that Astroworld is an instant classic, but I do believe that it is on the same level as his stellar debut album Rodeo, if not slightly better. Rodeo has stood the test of time and still sounds as quality as the day it released, and I believe that the same will be true for Astroworld. This is an absolutely amazing project and definitely one of the top 3 hip hop releases of 2018.

Final Score: 8.8/10

Image property of Travis Scott/David LaChapelle/Epic Records