“The Lost Boy” album review

YBN Cordae demonstrates a knack for lyricism on his debut studio album, The Lost Boy. Supported by three singles, “Have Mercy”, “Bad Idea”, and “RNP”, The Lost Boy dropped on July 26th, 2019.

Recently named to the XXL Freshman Class of 2019, Cordae Amari Dunston, AKA YBN Cordae, should be considered its valedictorian. YBN Cordae began his rap career as a teenager under the name Entendre. Under this alias, Cordae released three mixtapes, including Anxiety (2014), I’m So Anxious (2016), and I’m So Anonymous (2017). Although, it was on his 2018 single, “Old N*ggas”, a response to J. Cole’s “1985”, where Cordae gained more notoriety for his skillset. On “1985”, Cole lambasts new age rappers for their careless spending and drug use. Cordae matched Cole’s lyricism and delivery with poise, while returning shade at the older generation of rappers. Cordae and J. Cole-much like Cole and Lil Pump-have squashed any potential beef over the diss tracks, as Cole is listed as the producer on “RNP”, a standout single from The Lost Boy.

Cordae’s delivery on The Lost Boy is full of bravado beyond his years. His lyrics shift from braggadocios to introspective. The whole album is a look into the old soul that is YBN Cordae. If you’re looking for bangers, tracks like “Have Mercy”, “RNP”, “Broke As Fuck”, and “Lost & Found” will satisfy you. If you’re looking for more personal tracks, then there’s “Bad Idea”, “Thanksgiving”, “Thousand Words”, and “Been Around”. Nearly every song could be considered a stand-out track.

Supported by the vocal talent of Ty Dolla $ign, Cordae delivers an endearing perspective of his attempts to stay humble in the face of success on “Way Back Home”. Lyrics like, “You can be who you wanna be but, I’d rather be myself for real”, show Cordae’s mature and self-assured outlook on life that extends beyond his 21 years of age.

“RNP”, featuring Anderson .Paak, is a natural frontrunner for this album, and a major summer vibe. The track is self-assured, it oozes confidence. The duo delivered a legendary performance of the single on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on July 24th, two days before the album dropped. Going back-to-back and flow-for-flow, the pair’s chemistry and talent was on full display and they certainly delivered.

Bolstering his position as a frontrunner amongst the rookies, the features on this album exemplify Cordae’s already apparent reach and respect for his peers in the game. Besides the aforementioned features, these include Chance the Rapper, Arin Ray, Pusha T, and Meek Mill. Chance the Rapper appears in the video for the single “Bad Idea”.

Cordae is a 21-year-old firecracker; it’s only a matter of time before he blows up. With a major studio album now released, YBN Cordae should not be overlooked in any conversation considering the best of the up-and-comers right now.

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Concert review: Vince Staples (8/8/19)

On August 8th, Vince Staples performed in Salt Lake City, Utah as part of the weekly summer Twilight Concert Series at the Gallivan Center. The concert was the fourth of the summer following shows headlined by Hippie Sabotage, Blind Pilot, and Young The Giant. The last two shows of this year’s concert series are Courtney Barnett on August 15th and Santigold on August 30th. 

Of all of the shows announced for this summer, I had been looking forward to this one the most since it was announced earlier this year. Keep reading for my analysis of the show and what you missed out on if you didn’t attend!   

Beginning of the show

The gates of the Gallivan Center opened at 6pm and the music started around 6:30pm. Everything was running smoothly with the openers performing their sets until about 7:15pm. Right around that time is when a huge thunderstorm hit and the show had to be delayed due to lightning strikes. The delay went on for nearly an hour, making for some shocked and peeved concert-goers.

Luckily the rain started to clear up around 8:15pm and the crowd ended up getting blessed with mostly clear skies for the rest of the evening. There were still sprinkles of rain here and there, but nothing worth shutting the show down again over. Now that the skies were clear, everyone was on edge while waiting for the Long Beach native Staples to come out and perform for them.   

Staples makes his appearance in SLC

After the DJ warmed the crowd up with music for around 30 minutes, Vince Staples finally made his appearance in SLC around 8:45pm. He came out to FM! track “FUN!” and pumped energy into everyone immediately. Following the intro track, he performed a few of his Big Fish Theory songs including “Big Fish” and “745”. These ended up being some fan-favorites for the evening, gathering great reactions from those in attendance. 

As the show went on, Staples played tracks from nearly every era of his music with the inclusion of some of his most popular features. He played Summertime 06 bangers “Senorita” and “Lift Me Up”, as well as Prima Donna titular track “Prima Donna”. He then played his feature on Gorillaz track “Ascension” to the delight of many mutual fans, along with his Black Panther The Album feature on “Opps”.

Near the end of the show is when the crowd really started getting into it and having a great time. Possibly the best reaction of the night came when Vince performed one of his most popular tracks, “BagBak”. The crowd went crazy when the politically-charged bouncy banger came on. You could feel the energy and it was my personal highlight of the whole show.

As the show was ending, Staples capped it off with a bang. He performed an essential banger in “Blue Suede” and then ended the show with his magnum opus (as he referred to it) in “Norf Norf”. The crowd roared in appreciation as Staples gave them a final shoutout and walked off the stage into a cool SLC night.          

Final thoughts

It would be easy for me to say the typical “wow, that was such a great show”, but I feel that it is necessary to heap praise on Vince Staples for his performance in SLC. That show, especially for being such an affordable one, was honestly amazing. You could tell that Staples is very passionate about giving everyone in attendance a great experience. 

Overall, even if you aren’t a huge hip hop fan I would recommend seeing a Vince Staples show when you get the opportunity. He involves the crowd very well and performs all of his essential tracks. He sets the precedent for what a hip hop show should be and could be a model example for other up-and-coming hip hop acts. 

Drake releases Care Package, reminding fans of his influence

A day before dropping this collection of previously “unreleased” songs, Drake announced Care Package. Confusing some fans and exciting others, but nevertheless generating buzz for songs that already existed.

Mac Miller once said his motto was D.A.D.D. or Do As Drake Does, meaning he hoped to emulate Drake’s success through releasing as much music as Drake did. At the time, Drake was releasing an album almost every year. The span of time between Take Care, Nothing Was the Same, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and ultimately More Life, was very short. His strategy leading up to the long-awaited Views was to produce as much music and amass as large of a discography as possible.

It certainly worked, as Drake is one of the biggest names in hip-hop and music in general. But somewhere in the mix, certain songs fell to the wayside. With the release of Care Package, Drake collected these tracks and packaged them into a searchable streaming “album”.

Aptly named by playing on the title of his first major album release, Take Care; Care Package is a look into the influence that Drake has had on pop music and hip hop. A care package is often delivered in a hospital when someone is sick. Titling this release Care Package is metaphorical; as if Drake is delivering a bouquet of flowers, a common form of hospital care package, to the rap game. Drake aims to bring “more life” into a rap game he views as sick and in need of rejuvenation. In proper Drake fashion, the cure is more Drake music. Not necessarily new music, but the more Drake music the healthier the game, I think.

Haven’t I heard these songs before?

For die-hard Drizzy fans, Care Package seems a bit redundant. Most of these tracks have been accessible for quite some time, leaked on less “certified” streaming services like YouTube and Soundcloud. Although by the numbers YouTube is the most widely used “streaming service”, the influence of Spotify and Apple Music is apparent with Care Package releasing on these platforms. For the casual Drizzy fan, this “album” could be an introduction to 17 Drake cuts they may not have previously heard.

With the Care Package drop, Drake is mainly aiming to reignite the number of listens that these tracks have. Most of the songs are familiar, they could have easily made it on to the albums from which they were cut. But albums need editing, and run-time is tricky to get right. Drake and his team of producers must be discerning in their choice of tracks to allow on albums.

Care Package is Drake’s equivalent to Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered. On this eight track EP, Kendrick showcased what didn’t make the final cut on To Pimp A Butterfly. In the case of Drake and Care Package, a decade of releases left him plenty of choices when it came to tracks that didn’t make a final cut.

Every fan of an artist has their favorite album, and some can experience cognitive dissonance when that artist doesn’t produce music that lives up to the record they loved so much. This is why Care Package works; it reminds fans of the eras in which their favorite Drake albums were released.

Stand out tracks include:

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“The Big Day” album review

The Big Day, Chance the Rapper’s debut album, or OWBUM, as he prefers to stylize it, is a quintessential summer LP. With this release, Chance conveys a nostalgia for the summers of old; the endless summers of youth and adolescence.

At first, The Big Day feels a bit like a Tarantino film that could use some condensing. Although it is long, the length progresses the theme. With that in mind, the final cut of The Big Day can feel a bit overwhelming. At 22 tracks and 1 hour and 17 minutes in length, it’s an undertaking to sift through. But on subsequent listens the album seems to feel more whole, like one long summer vacation.

The bars are witty and inventive, fresh and “hot” like a summer day. Chance clearly wanted to showcase his talents and convey the clarity and peace of mind inherent to a summer vacation.

The second track, “Do You Remember”, with a hook performed by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, primes the listener for this message:

  • “Do you remember how when we were younger the summers all lasted forever. Days disappeared into months, into years. Hold that feeling forever.”

As this hook concludes, a school bell rings. As a child, the feeling when that bell rang and school released for summer was incomparable.

Analysis

With 10 Day, Acid Rap, and Coloring Book under his belt, Chance was primed for a full LP release. Although, the months leading up to this album were somewhat tumultuous for Chance and his relationship with his fans. With the release of the single, “GrOceries”, far from a fan-favorite, Chance was faced with a split fanbase. Those who missed the quirky, loud, and funky ad-libs that stuck out on Acid Rap and were few and far between on Coloring Book, were worried by the direction the album might take given the poppy single.

It was rumored that Kanye West would include Chance in his string of seven track albums. This, like most of Kanye’s supposed recent work, has not come to fruition. It would be interesting to see a shorter album from Chance that harkens back to the style of 10 Day and Acid Rap, but The Big Day feels more thematic and polished compared to his mixtapes of old. This is a direction Chance has clearly been hoping to make for years.

As an artist, Chance has evolved and continues to do so. Acid Rap, the project that garnered him an almost cult-like following, was released on April 30th, 2013. Fast forward six years to July 26th, 2019, and Chance releases his first official album, The Big Day. With this album, July 26th was truly a big day for Chance and it’s exciting to witness his evolution through his unconventional route to success.

Standout tracks:

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Artist Spotlight: Maxo Kream

I’ve said this many times before, but hip hop is such an interesting genre for a multitude of reasons. One of the most interesting things about the genre is the distinct sounds and musical styles that come from different cities. You’ve got Chicago drill, Los Angeles west coast bounce, Bay Area hyphy, New York boom-bap, Atlanta trap, Houston trill, and many more different styles. Today’s post will focus on one of the brightest young rap stars in Houston, Maxo Kream

Rise in popularity  

Maxo Kream first jumped into the mainstream light in 2015 even though he’s been rapping since he was in high school. His first mixtape that garnered him more attention was #Maxo187. The tape was featured in numerous high-profile publications including XXL and more. That tape featured popular rappers Joey Bada$$, Fredo Santana, and more. The sound on the tape was very Houston-influenced, with deep basslines, chopped-and-screwed vocals, and violent street tales. 

Following #Maxo187, Kream released 2016’s Persona Tape and then his 2018 debut album Punken. The 2018 project was met with positive reviews for its high level storytelling and versatility. On the project, we saw Maxo continue to improve his rapping ability while continuing to try new sounds and beats to the delight of many fans.       

Why you should give him a chance 

If you are a fan of lyrical rap that tells great stories while also flowing over beats of all types, you’ll most likely enjoy Maxo Kream’s music. He takes all of those things into his craft along with constant evolution and incorporation of new elements. Kream also has nods to the city he came from, citing his city as a big influence on his musical style. He can also craft great hooks that are super catchy while also not being too repetitive or one dimensional. His voice is quite catchy and distinct compared to a lot of the rappers that sound similar to each other.

I can honestly say that Maxo Kream is up there near the top of the ranks of my favorite new artists. I love the way that he can tell such a compelling story while also making each song sound different from the last.  


Notable songs

When you have an artist as good as Maxo it can be difficult to choose his most notable songs. But without further adieu, here are the most notable songs from Maxo Kream’s discography thus far.    

“Astrodome” – Maxo Kream 

This track was one of the first of Maxo’s that I ever listened to. What draws me to this track is the chopped n screwed vocals, they just fit so perfectly. The feature from Sauce Twinz is so Houston and fits perfectly as well. This is a great track from the #Maxo187 project for sure. 

“Big Worm” Maxo Kream

Remember earlier how I mentioned those unorthodox beats that Maxo somehow sounds great over? Yeah, this is definitely one of those tracks. “Big Worm” is an essential track for any Maxo fan-to-be. His flow is impeccable and that beat though. Damn man, this is a dope track.

“Spike Lee” ft. Playboi Carti & Rich The Kid Maxo Kream 

This song right here is one of Maxo’s most popular, and for good reason. It features a young Playboi Carti and an amazingly catchy hook. The verses from everyone are great and the beat is a work of art. This should be an instant add to your playlist if you enjoy what you’ve heard from Kream thus far. 

Punken Maxo Kream

I’ll admit, I’m kind of cheating this section by including this link. But the whole Punken album is simply too good to not listen to. It is the best version of Maxo Kream that we’ve heard so far and it would be a shame if you didn’t experience that. It was one of the better hip hop releases of a strong 2018 and I would really recommend it. But if you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, my favorite tracks from the project are “Grannies”, “Beyonce (Interlude)”, “Love Drugs”, and “Roaches”

 

What’s next? 

2019 has been a pretty good year for Maxo Kream thus far, seeing as he’s released a few singles during the buildup to his latest album Brandon Banks. The singles that he’s released thus far this year include the excellent “Meet Again”, the hard-hitting “Still”, and “She Live” ft. Megan Thee Stallion. Brandon Banks is set to release on July 19th and I absolutely cannot wait. Check it out on your selected streaming service if you like what you’ve heard from Maxo

K-UTE Radio/University of Utah does not own any images contained in this piece. 

The Hip Hop Drip Reviews: Bandana

June 28th marked the release of Bandana, the highly anticipated sequel to Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s original collaborative project Piñata. Fans were elated when rumors began circulating about a follow up ‘MadGibbs’ collaboration, and as the singles started to drop, we knew exactly what we were in store for. This project possesses the same smooth elevator-style jazz samples characteristic of Madlib coupled with bars and storytelling from Gibbs that is on par with everything they have previously done together. As a whole, Bandana solidly delivers on what fans had been anxiously awaiting from the dynamic duo.

“Bandana presents an easy first listen with Piñata-esque samples for Gibbs to unleash on.”

If this is your first taste of a MadGibbs project, this album might seem a bit out of place in an industry that is dominated by the trap formula. However, I was happy to hear the same saucy samples, bars, and hard-hitting beats that made me such a fan of their first collaboration together. Bandana presents an easy first listen with Piñata-esque samples for Gibbs to unleash on.

Aside from the music, the album itself has natural flow from song to song, something that Madlib has always done beautifully in the past. He is a true genius when it comes to lining up a playlist as he often uses the juxtaposition of playful samples in transition to give his work the unique sound that has cemented him in hip hop history.

“A definite recommend for connoisseurs of hip hop”

After a few listens through Bandana there were admittedly a few songs that didn’t do it for me. Although, they were offset by some personal standout tracks. These tracks stood out to me because of the depth of their lyrics, like in the song “Practice”, where Gibbs laments on the guilt he feels toward the mother of his child. Another good example is his masterful flow on full display in the second verse of the song “Situations”.

I also really enjoyed Madlib’s use of the “minute-in beat switch” on this project. This is a formula that has worked out for Gibbs and Madlib in the past and they succeed in making it work again on a number of tracks throughout Bandana. Madlib’s production on the album in general is truly special. Songs like “Soul Right” and “Cataracts” leave you feeling high on life, and with a coveted Yassin Bey and Black Thought feature over a DOOM-style dark low piano sample, this album has numerous ‘playlist-worthy’ tracks.

Bandana is a definite recommend for connoisseurs of hip hop, or if for any reason at all for the stories that Gibbs has to tell. Freddie delivers a raw street sermon with themes of past relationships, questionable love from the world, resilience, growth, and thankfulness that make this a classic Gangsta Gibbs project.

“Bandana is what it is”

I’ve talked a lot about how this album compares in a good way to previous projects, but now I want to take a look back at some of the noticeable weaknesses. My first concern was the apparent lack of featured artists. It’s not that Freddie Gibbs can’t hold down a whole project on his own, but to say that I wasn’t a little disappointed with the lack of featuring artists would be a lie. In particular, we are missing a cypher track on this project like there was on Piñata, and that was a bit of a let down.

Although I would consider this to be a very strong album cover to cover, there is a noticeable difference in the strength of the last half of the album versus the first 7 or 8 songs. If you are new to Gibbs and Madlib’s work together, then the last half of the album would be a good place to start, where some of Madlib’s less savory and more experimental tracks will not turn you away to begin with.

Bandana is what it is. The project is not chocked full of club bangers or tracks that are particularly suited for hitting the gym. Whether you consider that a weakness or not is not is obviously a matter of personal opinion. Regardless, Bandana is definitely worth a listen in my book and another entry into Gibbs’ impressive portfolio of projects.

“For fans, Bandana is an instant classic”

Freddie Gibbs has an incredibly impressive discography on his own that is 100% worth digging into, but working with Madlib on Piñata in 2015 ushered in a new era for Gibbs’ career and as an artist. Working with an OG like Madlib has seemingly allowed for him to let his potential as an artist run wild, having dropped numerous classic albums since then including Shadow of a Doubt, You Only Live 2wice, and Freddie. With that said, for fans Bandana is an instant classic that represents a continuation of the artistic journey and progression Gibbs is only in the midst of.

Hip Hop Drip Highlighted Tracks

“Soul Right”

“Situations”

“Practice”

Full length review

In addition to this written review, the Hip Hop Drip also recorded a full length podcast review. Click this link to listen to that!

 

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J. Cole’s Dreamville Records releases highly anticipated compilation album

Even if you are one of the more casual hip hop fans out there, you’ve most likely heard of J. Cole and his label Dreamville Records. The label was founded by Cole and Ibrahim Hamad in their native North Carolina. The label has many artists signed to it, including J.I.D, Bas, Cozz, Omen, Ari Lennox, and EarthGang. Dreamville also houses producers including Cam O’bi, Childish Major, Cedric Brown, and many more. 

  

Initial hype

The label had released previous compilations Revenge of the Dreamers and Revenge of the Dreamers II in 2014 and 2015 respectively. These projects here hailed as pretty good by fans, but they felt like something was missing. Many fans felt that Dreamville was missing out on a big opportunity by failing to use their many industry connections to get other artists to feature on the projects. But in early 2019, that seemed to change completely with the announcement of Revenge of the Dreamers III. It looked like Cole and the gang were serious about building a lot of hype and creating a great project.     

Artist invites

On January 6th, J. Cole went on Twitter and announced the project with a poster that looked like an invitation to some recording sessions. The dates for the sessions were January 6-16th and were held in Atlanta. These dates were chosen due to the tour schedules of Dreamville artists.

After Cole’s initial announcement on January 6th, many different artists began popping up on social media sites with their invitations to the recording sessions. There were over 100 artists and producers invited to the sessions including most notably 6lack, Akon, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Big KRIT, Buddy, Currensy, Isaiah Rashad, Lil Baby, Meek Mill, Reason, Rick Ross, Saba, Ski Mask the Slump God, Smino, Syd, Tay Keith, and Vince Staples, among many more. 

The recording sessions came and went and it is said that there were actually over 300 invites in one studio with 142 songs recorded and almost 260GB worth of music. That is an absolutely insane amount of content and it really put fans on edge to hear the project when it was released.

    

Final project

Early in the week of July 1st J. Cole made another announcement, one that fans had really been waiting for. He announced the Revenge of the Dreamers III would be released on July 5th, 2019. This immediately raised the hype levels through the roof and kept fans on edge until the day it came out.

According to Dreamville, the final project contains 18 songs with 34 artists and 27 producers. That leaves over 100 songs that fans will not be able to hear for the time being.

Regardless, this project had an amazing rollout and recording process. It seems to be one of the most unique projects that I’ve come across thus far and I can’t wait to listen to it even more. 

Revenge of the Dreamers III is now available on music streaming platforms! Hit me up on my Instagram once you’ve listened and let me know what you think of the album.

K-UTE Radio/University of Utah does not own any of the images in this piece. 

“7” review: Lil Nas X drops captivating debut project

If you’ve been anywhere near a radio for the past few months, you’ve most likely heard “Old Town Road” or its several remixes at least once. You may not know who Lil Nas X was before hearing the song, but honestly who did?

He got his first taste of fame on Twitter by running Nicki Minaj fan accounts and also creating Vines and TikTok videos. He released “Old Town Road” in late 2018 and it began picking up steam in early 2019. By April 2019, it had a remix with legendary country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and had broken Drake’s record of most streams in one week with over 140 million.

Once he began gaining social media followers like crazy, Nas began posting snippets of his new songs all over Instagram. This made fans want to hear what else he could do. Without further adieu, it’s time to see what Lil Nas X can bring to the table on his first official project.   

First impressions

  • The Good: On my first listen through this EP, I was actually surprised at how versatile Lil Nas was one most of the tracks. It makes for an interesting listen especially because I expected him to stick to the country rap fusion for the whole project honestly.  
  • The Bad: Even though I do think the songs were pretty good and different sounding, the lyrics were kind of bland. No songs really stood out from the others in terms of what they actually talked about.  

Lyrics/Flow

  • The Good: One of the things I appreciate most about this project is Lil Nas X’s voice. He has a great singing voice and a decent rapping flow from what I can tell. We didn’t get to see too much rapping from him but what we did see wasn’t bad at all. He has a lot of potential in that regard and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes with rap in the future.  
  • The Bad: As I said before, each song sounded different in terms of sonic elements but not much else. The lyrics were pretty lackluster and forgettable, with the exception of the hyped up “Panini” and “Rodeo”.  
  • Score: 6.8/10

Beats

  • The Good: Another good part about the project was honestly the beats. They were all pretty different and actually pleasing to the ears. Nas’ voice works pretty well on different production and I would encourage him to continue breaking new ground on his debut album. Producers on this EP include Take A Daytrip, Young Kio, Business Boi, and Boi-1da.
  • The Bad: I don’t have anything bad to say about the beats on this project. As I mentioned, Nas flows really well on all the tracks whether he’s singing or rapping. This was just a little taste of what we’ll see from him in the future, so hopefully he can still choose beats he sounds good over.
  • Score: 8.3/10

Replayability

  • The Good: Being that this project is an EP, it is quite easy to listen to all the way through. It is only 18 minutes over 7 tracks, so I would definitely suggest multiple listens in order to digest it fully. I’ll be revisiting this project in the future simply due to the fact that it has so many different sounds on it and it is so short.  
  • The Bad: As with many EPs, it just feels like a random collection of songs. Including “Old Town Road” twice really bloats the project a bit, but I can understand why he did it. I’m hoping he’ll go for more of a concept on his album, but we’ll see when that arrives.   
  • Score: 7.5/10

Standouts

  • Being that this EP is quite short and has a variety of different sounds, it was quite hard to choose songs that stand out from the rest. My personal favorite tracks on the EP were “Panini” and “Bring U Down” but I’d say to listen to the whole thing because it’s so short.  

Final thoughts

As with most music fans, I didn’t really take Lil Nas X very seriously after first hearing “Old Town Road”. I thought it was just another meme song that would be dead within a few weeks, just like all of the others before it. Obviously that didn’t happen and Nas is really out here with a number one Billboard hit that is about to tie the all time record for most weeks at the top.

Once Lil Nas X announced this EP, I was actually pretty excited to see what he could bring to the table. I heard the “Panini” and “Rodeo” snippets when he previewed them on Instagram and was impressed, but I didn’t hear any of his other snippets.

After listening to the full EP more than a few times, I can say that I’m impressed with what Lil Nas X has given us here. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it is a good start to a hopefully prosperous career for him. He showed us that he’s really with the multiple genre music creation and that it actually works for him. Lil Nas X isn’t just a meme and I think he’s here to stay, at least for a little bit. If you like what you heard from his EP, be on the lookout for his debut album coming soon.    

Final Score: 7.3/10    

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