So Far Gone: Is Drake’s 10-year-old project worth a listen?

It’s 2019 and it’s very clear that the streaming era is in full effect. With the rise of streaming platforms over the last couple years, many artists have been re-releasing select older music onto these services (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) that wasn’t previous available. Artists including Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, and many more have released older mixtapes on the services for instance. Drake is just the latest major artist to follow this trend, releasing his 2009 mixtape So Far Gone for the first time commercially.

Should I listen to it?

Yeah you may be a Drake fan, but have you actually listened to So Far Gone? I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t, as the project wasn’t widely available before this. It’s also 10 years old so the younger generation may be completely lost on it. The project was Drizzy’s third mixtape, following 2006’s Room For Improvement and 2007’s Comeback Season. It is often viewed as the moment where people really started to take him seriously as an artist.

As I re-listened to So Far Gone today, I realized that the project is actually very good given the contexts surrounding the time it was recorded and Drake’s versatility as an artist. Admittedly there are some corny bars here and there, but his rapping and singing is exceptional for the most part.

Standout tracks

Even if you haven’t listened to the original So Far Gone mixtape that contains 18 tracks, you’ve probably heard a few of the bigger tracks off the shorter EP version including “Successful” and “Best I Ever Had”. But given that the full project is now available, I’d suggest checking out these standout tracks and the project as a whole if you like what you hear.

“Houstatlantavegas”Drake

This track is honestly in the conversation as one of Drake’s best ever. His singing really stands out as well as his rapping. The story that he tells is also very engaging and relatable for a lot of people. This is a personal favorite of mine from the project.

“November 18th”Drake

At this point, you’ve probably heard of Drake’s famous series of songs that include either a date or a place. This is one of the first instances of that series, and it is definitely one of the best. This song features heavy use of Houston-style chopped and screwed vocals as well as a mixture of singing and rapping. It is iconic among Drake fans, and for very good reason.

“Say What’s Real”Drake

Drake over a classic 808s & Heartbreak Kanye West beat? Yeah you read that right. Drake absolutely rips this beat apart while spitting some of the realest bars of his career thus far, talking about things such as how he feels and how he thinks his career will pan out. We’re lucky to have this track included on the project considering the beef that Kanye and Drake have, so enjoy this one while it’s available.

Final verdict

Clearly So Far Gone is a great project and it’s up there with Drake’s best so far. It played a large part in shaping Drake into who he’s become and how far he’s come in the past 10 years. If it isn’t obvious yet, give this project a listen and take a ride back to 2009 courtesy of Drizzy Drake himself.   

Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next’: what the people are saying

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the couple years, Ariana Grande is on top of the world and it looks like she isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The superstar pop singer has just released her latest album Thank U, Next, which follows up her 4th studio album Sweetener by 6 months.

According to Ariana, the album was inspired by a variety of events that have occured in her personal life including the passing of ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and breaking up with her ex-fiance Pete Davidson.

Before the album was released, Grande dropped the titular single “Thank U, Next” as well as “7 Rings”. Both of these tracks debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with huge numbers on streaming services. Grande then released the full album on February 8th, 2019 to the delight of fans and critics alike.

What the critics are saying

As is tradition when any big artist releases a new album, the Internet and the many music websites out there go absolutely crazy for it. Ariana Grande’s new album is no exception to this point.

USA Today had very high praise for the album, saying “thank u, next is markedly darker and sexier – leaning fully into Grande’s penchant for R&B, as she sings 12 of her most confessional songs yet”. They also described the project as her best and most confessional album yet. They gave huge praise to tracks including “ghostin”, “NASA”, and “in my head”, so be sure to check those out.

Another news outlet, The Guardian, had similar praise for the album, calling it “a break-up album of wit and wonder”. They also said that Grande has finally found her voice as an artist and has started showing people more of who she really is. The Guardian summed the project up beautifully, saying “As with Rihanna’s Anti, this feels like the work of a pop star previously happy to act as conduit for other people, finally working out who they are and what they want to say. Here, Grande finds her voice”.

What the fans are saying

To be completely honest, Ariana Grande’s fans are some of the most hardcore and supportive in all of music. They ride for her like no other. It’s obvious that she’s going to receive a huge amount of love from them. One fan on Twitter even went far enough as to say that the project had no skippable songs. Each was amazing in its own right.

Another user had more positive feedback on the album. They said that the growth that Grande showed on the project is incredible. Possibly the most noteworthy tweet about the album said “thank u next is the album we’ve always wanted from her”.

Other fans didn’t have such positive praise for the album. One fan even ranked Thank U, Next as Ariana’s second worst album. There wasn’t an explanation why, but it’s an interesting take given all of the other praise out there.  

Want to see more fan feedback on the album? You can search “thank u next” on Twitter or Instagram and be absolutely flooded with results. That’s how polarizing Grande is as an artist.  

Should you listen?

If it isn’t completely obvious yet, you should give this album a listen. Even if you aren’t necessarily into pop music, this is a piece of work that you absolutely should give the time of day to. It is stunningly emotional, deep, and revealing. This is an artist that put her personal business and thoughts out there in a beautiful way. If you do listen to the album, hit me up with your thoughts in the comment section.

The Plight of LeBron James

Another NBA trade deadline has come and gone. It featured no shortage of trades by title-hopefuls looking to solidify their spots as legitimate contenders. A flurry of activity saw Tobias Harris sent to Philadelphia, Marc Gasol shipped across the border up north to Toronto, and Nikola Mirotic land in Milwaukee. While many other trades took place, these could perhaps be argued as the most influential on playoff outcomes come this April. Yet, the biggest trade most everyone was following this past week failed to materialize past initial negotiations. Anthony Davis remains rooted in New Orleans, and the Lakers ended up with only Mike Muscala to show for all the drama.

This latest development in Lakerland highlights an eerily similar story arc for LeBron James as of late. During his final two seasons on the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron lobbied hard for his front office to try and land stars such as Eric Bledsoe, Kemba Walker, and Paul George. Unable to complete any of LeBron’s desired trades, the Cavaliers were left with a disgruntled team of misfits who only made the NBA Finals riding the coattails of LeBron’s greatness. 

What about this time?

Now, once again, LeBron James finds himself on a team full of young players. They know their fearless leader and team management eagerly anticipated trading them for a preferred superstar but failed to find the right deal. This clear awkwardness has ascended to the point of rival fans raining Lakers players with chants of “LeBron’s gonna trade you!” I’m no expert, but my guess is this negatively impacts team chemistry. Pair this with rumors of LeBron James’ displeasure with head coach Luke Walton, and the James could be poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season. 

This latest saga of LeBron’s bungled attempt to build himself a better team highlights another fascinating aspect to the problem. Despite LeBron’s status as a mega-millionaire with influence that spans the globe and many powerful friends, he still sits (for now, at least) a tier beneath billionaire NBA franchise owners. And these billionaires are neither too familiar nor comfortable with being told what to do. When Pelicans ownership and management is informed their supposed franchise cornerstone wants out through a series of smokescreens, leaked lists, and demands, it’s not surprising they decide to play hardball and deny LeBron’s and Anthony Davis’s wishes.

The future

This leaves us at an interesting spot in the later stages of LeBron James’s career. If he learned anything from his time trying to play general manager in the free agent market in years past, it should be to stay away from it. As LeBron’s career begins to wind down and he desires to win more championships, attempting to finagle the trade market will not lead to success. It remains to be seen whether or not Anthony Davis will eventually suit up in a Lakers uniform, but this much is for sure: LeBron James has failed on another trade deadline. And if he doesn’t learn fast, he might not get the chance to win in June ever again.

Artist Spotlight: CJSleeves

Here at K-UTE, we make it a point to support our local artists of all genres. We believe that each and every one of these artists has something to bring to the table and has a chance at success. One such artist that is particularly talented is Provo, Utah’s CJSleeves. The young rapper has a lot of potential and definitely deserves to be listened to by a large audience.  

Background  

If you are unfamiliar with CJSleeves, you won’t be for long. According to the man himself, he got his rap name by using his initials of CJ and adding “sleeves” after a teammate on his high school basketball team referred to the sleeves that would show under his jersey during games. Sleeves also likes to say that the latter part of his name refers to the fact that he is very honest in his music and “wears his heart on his sleeves”.

CJSleeves first started writing music in 7th grade, but didn’t really take it as serious until his high school years. One of the biggest things that he thought of when starting to make music was that he wanted to have the effect on others that his favorite artists left on him while he was growing up. Some of his biggest artistic influences include Machine Gun Kelly, Chance The Rapper, J. Cole, and Childish Gambino. If he could collaborate with one artist right now, he would choose Lukas Graham. He also cited the late Mac Miller as a dream collaboration (RIP Mac).

He has made over 100 songs in 5 years but has only released about 30 of them. His debut mixtape Junior Varsity was released on Soundcloud during his senior year of high school. He plans on dropping a few projects this year as well because he’s enjoying making music more now than he ever has before.          

Why you should give him a chance

If you can’t tell by now, CJSleeves is an artist that genuinely cares about the music he puts out. He doesn’t release everything he records, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. This is an artist that truly gives the music he creates his all. All of the hard work will pay off for him once he is able to help others through music and have a positive impact on others lives.

In regards to his rapping ability, this kid has skills. If you’d prefer to check him out for yourself rather than hear my opinion, check out the section below to see where you can find his tunes.    

Where you can hear his music

CJSleeves has quite a few tracks available on Soundcloud, including his brand new self-produced single “Paean (Alright)”. On the track (which is accompanied by a music video), Sleeves gets into some real-life struggles that are very relatable to young people. Sleeves said of the track “It speaks on the pressures of being in your early 20’s and having all kinds of decisions to make, but how even through that, I’m happy”. This one has been in constant rotation for me, and I’m sure the same will be true for you.

Check out his project Junior Varsity on Soundcloud for more of that real spill courtesy of a fresh Utah artist. Stay tuned for more new music coming soon.

What’s next?

This should be quite obvious, but CJSleeves isn’t going to quit pursuing his dreams. Right now he’s making more music than ever and is ready to drop some new projects and make a splash in 2019. If you enjoyed his music, follow him on Instagram @cjsleeves and show him some love.

Vampire Weekend Should’ve Stayed Quiet

For the past couple years, Vampire Weekend has been pretty quiet. In May 2013 they released their 3rd studio album Modern Vampires Of The City. The album did particularly well and left the New York City based band at the top of the Indie Rock world. MVOTC debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart and won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2014. As a fan, I particularly enjoyed this album and thought it was a step in the right direction for Vampire Weekend. I still vibe to “Diane Young”, “Unbelievers”, and countless others from the album.

The Departure of Rostam

In 2016, Vampire Weekend saw their first stage of turmoil when Rostam Batmanglij announced that he would be leaving the band. Although they insisted that they would continue to collaborate on future projects, I knew this was the end of Vampire Weekend as we knew them. As a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Rostam was a huge part of Vampire Weekend’s sound and they lost a tremendous talent with his departure.

Rostam Batmanglij
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

As the years passed, I mostly forgot about Vampire Weekend. In my mind, they were a band that came together, released 3 spectacular albums and then broke up. For me, that was enough. Bands can’t stay together forever. Artists need new projects and to move in new creative directions. I would rather that a band completely dissolve than start releasing music that would taint my perception of them. Unfortunately, Vampire Weekend did exactly what I feared.

Harmony Hall/2021

On January 24, 2019, Vampire Weekend broke their 6 year silence with the release of “Harmony Hall” and “2021”. These two singles will be featured on upcoming album Father Of The Bride that will be released later this year. “Harmony Hall” starts off with a quick moving acoustic guitar riff. At 40 seconds the vibe completely changes into an ultra poppy dance groove. The whole feel of the song just seems forced. It’s almost too uplifting. Too flowery. It lacks authenticity. It doesn’t seem like the Vampire Weekend I fell in love with. While they were never a really hard band, they seem to have lost any sense of rock they previously had. The song could fit in any generic Disney movie during a montage scene. There is a cute reference to their song “Finger Back” with the lyric “I don’t wanna live like this but I don’t want to die”. Aside from that there is nothing captivating about the track.

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

“2021” is a short song, only 1:38, and features a sampled voice as a rhythmic element. It’s like they heard Bon Iver and James Blake using samples and thought it would be a good idea to throw it in. However, they don’t do anything innovative or even interesting. At least the song ends before the boredom consumes me.

How much for a ticket?

If you are wondering, Vampire Weekend is making a stop in Salt Lake City for their Father of the Bride tour. They are playing at the Complex on Oct. 6th and are charging $60 a ticket before fees. That’s right, $60! Well I probably won’t see you at the show. I’ll be at home wishing Vampire Weekend would’ve just stayed quiet.

Logic announces release date for debut novel

On January 10th, rising hip hop star Logic announced the release date of his debut novel titled “Supermarket”. The novel will be the rapper’s first entry as a published author. It is expected to arrive at retailers on March 26th, but pre-orders are available online now.

According to the official “Supermarket” website, the novel tells the story of Flynn, a recently single supermarket employee that finds himself in a world of trouble at his place of work. The book is billed as a psychological thriller that is also darkly funny.

Even though this is Logic’s first novel release, he has often mentioned in his music and interviews that he’s been interested in writing books and movies. It is clear to see that he’s trying to expand his reach in the pop culture world outside of his highly successful and still growing musical career. Aside from being behind the scenes, Logic also mentioned in the past that he’d love to get into more acting roles after having a part in an episode of Rick and Morty.

Storytelling ability

Storytelling is nothing new to Logic, as the majority of his studio albums have consistent stories being told throughout them. If you are interested in hearing a story told by Logic rather than reading one, I’d recommend listening to his studio albums Under Pressure, The Incredible True Story, and Everybody. Each one is different and unique in their own way, but still somehow hold together an interesting story. Logic has also claimed that his “last” studio album, tentatively titled Ultra 85, would end the story being told in his previous work.  

If you’d like to pre-order a copy of “Supermarket”, check out supermarketbook.com. The novel will be available at stores including Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, and many more on March 26th. The novel will also be accompanied by a soundtrack, but not much is known about that yet. Only time will tell what Bobby Tarantino has in store for us in that regard. But if his previous work is any indication, this project will be both dope and innovative.   

“The WIZRD” review: Future is back; but is he better?

It’s 2019 and Future makes his return by hitting us with a new album, one of the first major hip hop releases of 2019. This project comes as a follow-up his pair of 2017 albums titled FUTURE and HNDRXX. The WIZRD is also accompanied by a film of the same name that was released on January 11th. The film currently only available on Apple Music.

Before releasing the project, Future released two promotional singles to raise hype. The singles were “Crushed Up” and “Jumpin on a Jet” and both of them were received well.

Future’s 2018 output could be considered slower by his standards. He released only two projects in BEASTMODE 2 and Wrld On Drugs. Both of these got mixed reception from fans and critics. But it’s 2019 now, so let’s see what he has in store for us on his seventh studio album.

First impressions

  • The Good: On my first listen through the album, there are definitely a lot of high quality and catchy tracks. The production is sensational as usual and Future recruited some great beatmakers. The features are utilized well and there aren’t too many of them. I’m liking what I’ve heard so far, let’s see if that holds up.  
  • The Bad: It’s quite a long project. Once you feel like it should be over, it keeps going. That isn’t to say that the songs are bad, there are simply a lot of them. At times it can feel like a chore getting through the full project more than once.  

Lyrics/Flow

  • The Good: On this project, Future brings his typical flows that we’ve seen quite a bit. Needless to say, they still sound as good as ever. One thing I’ve enjoyed about Future’s career progression is that he isn’t afraid to use higher pitched flows on his tracks. We hear that quite a bit on this project and I think it makes the songs more interesting and raises the quality of the tracks.
  • The Bad: In terms of lyrical content, Future doesn’t bring much new in that category on this new album. There are a couple tracks on which we hear him more reflective themes, but for the most part it’s the typical stuff about trapping, drugs, money, clothes, and cars. This isn’t the biggest knock on the project as Future isn’t the most lyrical rapper, but it can get annoying at times hearing the same words in most tracks.  
  • Score: 7/10

Beats

  • The Good: As I mentioned above, the beats on this project are great. We hear Future Hendrix go in over some typical trap production but also a few beats that stand out from the rest. Some of the best beats on this project include “Crushed Up”, “Tricks On Me”, “Temptation”, and “Never Stop”. Producers that contributed to this album include Tay Keith, ATL Jacob, Southside, Wheezy, and Ricky Racks.  
  • The Bad: Hearing Future over typical trap production can only sound interesting for so long. While the beats on this project are high quality, a lot of them sound pretty similar. For the most part, this project’s beats are comparable to 2017’s FUTURE album and that isn’t necessarily a good thing considering the repetitive nature of that project.   
  • Score: 6.5/10

Replayability

  • The Good: If you are a fan of Future, you’ll be able to shuffle through this album quite a bit and hear many different tracks each time since the project is so large at 20 songs. It is honestly good enough to give a second listen through. There isn’t an easily identifiable theme, so no need to worry about finding a deeper meaning behind this album.  
  • The Bad: If you’re looking for a cohesive and narrative driven album, this isn’t it. It feels simply like a collection of songs much like some of Future’s other albums. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just doesn’t have much of a deeper meaning behind it like some fans would have hoped. If you aren’t the biggest fan of Future, I wouldn’t recommend listening to the entirety of this album more than a couple times simple because of the length.
  • Score: 6/10

Standouts

Final thoughts

When Future first announced this project, I was really hyped for it. It had been quite a bit of time since we last received a proper studio album from Future, with 2017’s HNDRXX being the previous. That album was great, so I expected Future to follow it up quite well after a somewhat lackluster 2018 output.

I wasn’t necessarily disappointed by this project, but it could have been better in my opinion. There are some great tracks for sure, but way too many fillers that didn’t need to be included. The inclusion of 20 tracks may be another outcome of the streaming era that sees artists wanting maximizing their streams/sales.

This is by no means a bad project and Future fans will certainly love it. But from a critical standpoint, I’m not too sure where Future goes from here. It seems that he’s done most of the things he set out to do in the hip hop game, and the quality of the music validates that point. One thing I know for sure is that Future will continue to drop bloated albums that his fans will eat up, only to receive more mid reviews from critics.   

Final Score: 6.7/10    

Part 2: Top 10 Hip Hop Albums of 2018

Continuing right where we left off, here are the top 6 hip hop albums of 2018. If you somehow missed out on part one, check that out by clicking on my name and scrolling down. Feel free to message me on Instagram @youngthuggamanekyle and give me your feedback on my list.

Albums 6-1

6. Victory Lap – Nipsey Hussle

2018 started off with a bang when Nipsey Hussle dropped his highly anticipated debut studio album Victory Lap in February. The project, which contains 16 songs, is a modern west coast G-funk-influenced masterpiece. This is essential listening for fans of west coast hip hop that has both substance and swagger, and the skill to back it up. This is one of the best west coast releases in 2018 by far.    

5. Daytona – Pusha T

In April 2018, Kanye West announced that his label GOOD Music would be releasing a series of 5 albums starting in May and ending in June. The first of these albums to be released was Pusha T’sDaytona. The album followed up Push’s 2015 effort King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude. It was originally supposed to be called King Push, but was renamed before release. The album contains 7 tracks, each produced by Kanye West. This album is so good because of the sheer quality of each track. Pusha spits some of his hardest bars ever over super fresh beats that don’t get old even if you listen to the tracks over and over. This is an amazing album that I would 100% recommend.

4. KOD – J. Cole

To get straight to the point, J. Cole’s fifth studio album KOD was one of the best of 2018 for many reasons. It is a concept album that discusses drug abuse, addiction, taxation, and much more. The project contains different elements of hip hop including jazz rap, trap, and conscious rap. It was especially relevant because of all of the overdoses that keep occuring in the hip hop community and world in general. Cole also took this album on the road and performed sold-out shows all across the country, including in Utah. This album took J. Cole to a new level that he hadn’t explored until now, and the only way for him to go is up.  

3. Astroworld – Travis Scott

There were many artists that broke out in 2018, but none became bigger than Houston’s own Travis Scott. La Flame unleashed his long-awaited third studio album in August after working on it for almost three years. Astroworld contained 17 tracks with features from Drake, Gunna, Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and many more. The album took listeners inside Scott’s mind and allowed them to feel what he experienced when the Astroworld theme park in Houston was closed. The project performed well commercially and was met with critical acclaim from many outlets. This is without a doubt a standout project in a year full of so much amazing music. Scott is currently in the midst of a world tour in support of the album.

2. CARE FOR ME – Saba

While the casual hip hop listener might not be familiar with Chicago rapper Saba, that should not discount the skills that he possesses behind the mic. Saba has been active in the game for 6 years now, steadily growing his fan base each year. Care For Me is by far his most personal work yet. The album details the events leading up to the murder of Saba’s cousin John Walt in February 2017. Topics discussed on the project include depression, anxiety, and the emotions Saba felt while the whole ordeal was happening. Care For Me has received mass critical acclaim from critics far and wide, with praise stemming from the topics discussed and the production quality of the tracks. If you haven’t checked the project out yet, you are severely missing out and I’d suggest listening to it as soon as possible.  

1. Kids See Ghosts – Kanye West & Kid Cudi

Kids See Ghosts was the third album released out of five by Kanye West’s label GOOD Music in the summer of 2018. The album is 7 tracks long and has a run time of 23:53. Upon release, it was met with widespread acclaim from many critics. Some of the biggest praise that the album receives stems from how great West and Cudi sound together. The use of other musical styles such as psychedelic, rock, and rap rock are high points of praise as well. Overall, this project is the best of 2018 because of the influence that it has already begun seeing in the musical world. Check this album out immediately if you have not heard it yet.

Conclusion

Overall, 2018 was an amazing year for hip hop. It was one for the ages because so many high quality projects were released. 2019 is already shaping up to be another great year, but only time will show us what is in store.