“Rap Or Go To The League” review: 2 Chainz crosses the competition up on new project

Honestly, last year was more of a quiet year for 2 Chainz. He announced Rap Or Go To The League in February of 2018 and released a few tracks here and there, but was otherwise uncharacteristically quiet aside from features on other artists’ songs. Usually when an artist is that quiet, it means that they’re cooking up an amazing project.

Nearly one year later he officially announced the release date for the project on February 19th, 2019. The announcement was made on Twitter and it was revealed that basketball superstar LeBron James had executive produced the project. This new development sent everyone who was anticipating this project to a new level of hype.   

Enough of all the talk, 2 Chainz has finally released his fifth studio album Rap Or Go To The League for our listening pleasure. Let’s dive in and see if this album with a bonkers tracklist lives up to the hype surrounding it.  

First impressions

  • The Good: On my first listen through the album, I noticed the quality of beats that Chainz rapped over. They’re some of the best of his career thus far due to the variety in each of them. His flow is impeccable as usual and that just adds to each track.  
  • The Bad: While I can agree this is the most lyrical we’ve heard 2 Chainz in quite some time, there are still tracks that sound like your typical trap banger. Yes these are far and few between on this project, but they’re still there and feel a bit stale after multiple listens through.  

Lyrics/Flow

  • The Good: As I mentioned, we haven’t heard such great subject matter from 2 Chainz in quite some time. He discusses things such as basketball, college athletes, his family, taxes, and politics and does it all with a variety of flows. This is probably his best lyrical project for the most part and I hope we get to hear similar stuff like this from him in the future.
  • The Bad: Even though the lyrics and flows are really good for the most part, sometimes Chainz doesn’t do a great job of picking the best flow for the mood of each track. He has showed us on his past work that he can bring out a variety of different flows for different types of tracks, but for some reason he didn’t pick them correctly this time. I still enjoy the songs regardless, but it can get annoying when the songs sound a bit off.   
  • Score: 7.8/10
2 Chainz announced the forthcoming album by launching a blimp in 2018.

Beats

  • The Good: The production on this album is honestly my favorite part. It is a great mix of trap, soul, and straight up funk at some points. There are some tracks that contain heavy sampling, but I think that only adds to the final product. We haven’t heard 2 Chainz over those types of beats in quite some time, so it was like a breath of fresh air on this project. Some of the producers that contributed to this project include WondaGurl, Mike Dean, Hitmaka, Pharrell Williams, and Cardo.  
  • The Bad: Even with an album full of great beats that stand out from the rest, there are usually a couple lackluster ones that also stick out. Not to say that these beats are bad in any way, but some of them sound too similar to what we’ve already heard from Chainz and many other artists. That isn’t a huge knock on the project as a whole because we only find these beats on a few tracks, and otherwise it’s a stellar album.
  • Score: 8.5/10

Replayability

  • The Good: Let’s be honest, a lot of 2 Chainz’ previous albums don’t have a lot of replay value. This is simply because the songs are either mediocre or get straight up boring after a few listens. But to the delight of many, that isn’t the case with this new project. Clocking in at 54 minutes over 14 tracks, this one doesn’t drag on in the slightest sense. This whole project will stay in my constant rotation for quite a while as I really enjoyed most every song on it.   
  • The Bad: As with most albums, the amount of times that you’ll actually replay an album comes down to personal preference. If you aren’t the biggest fan of 2 Chainz, you may find yourself bored quite quickly due to his slower flow on most of the tracks. Check out a few tracks and skip around a bit before you decide to listen to the whole project. I think that’ll make for a better listening experience if that person is you.
  • Score: 8/10

Standout songs

  • As with most albums I review, it’s always tough to choose the best tracks. It’s even harder for this project considering the amount of quality music that we’ve been blessed with. The standouts from 2 Chainz’ fifth studio album are “Forgiven”, “Momma I Hit A Lick”, “I Said Me”, and “Sam”.   

Final thoughts

When you think of 2 Chainz, what’s the first thought that comes to your head? I bet it isn’t “an artist who is known for making great trap music but decided to make a killer introspective concept album”. I’ll be honest, that wasn’t what I was thinking either before I listened to this album.

Let me tell you, 2 Chainz did exactly that. This album is an exceptional piece of art that showcases how it may feel for young black males that feel their only choice in life is to either rap, sell drugs, or try to make it as an athlete. The album is full of stories about struggles that 2 Chainz has faced in his own life as well as more stories about how the world works in America.

This will go down as one of the top 10 best hip hop releases of 2019. Everyone did their thing on this project; 2 Chainz, the featured artists, and even the producers. They all crushed it and created an album that will stand the test of time and be known as 2 Chainz’ best album and one of the best of the year.  

Final Score: 8.3/10    

Treefort Music Festival 2019: 4 bands to listen to

With Boise’s TreeFort music festival just around the corner in March I thought I would prepare myself as well as listeners.  With an enormous 432 band line up it can be easy to miss out something incredible. So to help you out, here are some of my top picks for the TreeFort music festival this week. Be sure to listen to the Crimson Venue on K-UTE Radio this week to catch these bands. 

Acid King

If You enjoy “Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats”, “Sleep” or any other stoner rock band, you’re sure to enjoy these guys. This three piece rock outfit formed in 1993, making these guys an instant classic. Lead vocal and guitarist Lori Crover, brings a drone sounding voice perfect for the ideal stoner jam. With only three albums it’s not hard to see why this underground band is still and underground gem.  Songs chock full of distorted guitar riffs and the heavy bass static, that stoner rock is famously known for. I recommend checking out songs “War on the Mind” and “Electric Machine”. You can find these guys on Apple Music, Spotify, BandCamp and SoundCloud.

I N T E R V A L S

Canadian Progressive Metal Band I N T E R V A L S, Never ceases to impress. Although they don’t feature any vocals, don’t let that dissuade you, these songs are jam packed with electrifying guitar riffs that with get you out of your seat. Each song brings something new to the table, between hard rock solos, to heartfelt rock ballads Intervals has something for everyone to enjoy.  I can’t wait to catch them at Treefort this year. Personal favorites of mine include “Sweet Tooth” and “Touch and Go”. You can find these guys on Apple Music, Spotify, BandCamp and SoundCloud.

Naked Giants

HOLY SHIT! These punk rock icons stole my heart from the first guitar riff, within 20 seconds I was in love. A mixture psych rock, blues, and punk, gives this band a unique but familiar sound. This passionate trio, parades a spitfire performance guaranteed to raise your blood pressure. Distorted high tempo guitar paired with punchy drums creates a punk rockers dream. Songs like “Ya Ya” that give off vibes similar to “The Raconteurs”. while songs like “Slow Dance II” tote a soul filled 70’s blues sound. Check them out on Apple Music and Spotify.

Sweet Spirit

Individuality reigns free within this large six piece band which gives them a sound so eclectic and original. Self titled album “Sweet Spirit” proves to be a rousing showcase of emotion within the bands performance. With inspirational lyrics that give a motivational speech in each line.  Their most recent release single “Touch” begs an easy listening dynamic that draws listeners in and captures their attention until the last chord. Highly recommended Sweet Spirit boasts a polished synthetic rock sound willing to satisfy anyone who listens.Check them out on Apple Music and Spotify

Is “Bohemian Rhapsody” Actually Bad or Just Gay?

Reactions to Bohemian Rhapsody

In early October, first reactions from critics to Bohemian Rhapsody began to surface on social media. Rami Malek’s performance as iconic Queen frontman Freddie Mercury received nearly universal praise, while the film itself was described by one such early viewer as a “glorified Wikipedia entry“.

Upon wide release and a strong box office performance, Rhapsody straddled the line between a 59% “rotten” and 60% “fresh” score (which it currently holds) on Rotten Tomatoes.  It also holds a mixed-to-negative score of 49 out of 100 on Metacritic, another popular review aggregator. Meanwhile, the film has a 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, an 8.2/10 user score on Metacritic, an average 5/5 star fan review on Fandango, an 8.4/10 on IMDb, and a 3.7/5 average from the notoriously discerning Letterboxd community.

The main issue that many seem to take is that Rhapsody fits into many common tropes associated with musical biopics. However, the same can be said for more well-regarded films, such as 2015’s Love & Mercy (90% on Rotten Tomatoes, 80/100 on Metacritic). This is also to suggest that tropes are not present in all consumed media, as they serve as nothing more than tools within the plot and visuals to more easily convey the story or message to an audience. And it’s not like we didn’t just see a fourth iteration of A Star is Born either.

AIDS on the Silver Screen

Another review from The Economist criticizes Rhapsody’s portrayal of Mercury’s struggle and inevitable death due to AIDS-related complications. “[The film] robs Mr. Malek of the chance to portray his subject’s most poignant years,”  writes ‘J.T.’, “it might prevent an excellent performance from being a prize-winning one, of the sort that earned Oscars for Tom Hanks in Philadelphia (1993) and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (2013).”

Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia”, 1993

While Mercury’s experiences living with the AIDS virus are addressed, shown, and portrayed as “no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise” as he croons in “We Are The Champions”, the film ends on a celebratory note with Queen’s legendary Live Aid performance. Some pre-credit onscreen text addresses Mercury’s cause of death and the efforts of the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity organized by the remaining members of Queen to assist in the worldwide fight against HIV and AIDS. Philadelphia famously ends with Hanks’ Beckett lying in his hospital bed, telling his partner that he is ready to greet death. In Dallas Buyer’s Club, Leto’s Rayon–a trans woman portrayed by a cis male actor, no less–dies tragically in the hospital as well.

LGBTQ Cinema

This is not the first time that we have seen critics respond negatively to more upbeat fair with a queer voice. In fact, beloved pieces of LGBTQ cinema have often been disregarded or torn apart by the film community.

Take the films of John Waters, for instance. Waters is one of the most prominent figures in the world of gay filmmakers, known for his creative partnership with beloved drag queen Divine. One of the most iconic Waters-Divine collaborations is Pink Flamingos, a gleefully offensive black comedy about the filthiest woman alive, and an essential cult classic in its own right. Roger Ebert famously refused to give Flamingos a star rating, and wrote of its 25th anniversary restoration that “with any luck at all […] I won’t have to see it again for another 25 years.” The original trailer for the film itself is a compilation of audience and critical reactions, several of which are negative.

Indie darlings featuring queer voices have also met initial critical resistance. But I’m a Cheerleader, a teen romantic comedy set inside of a conversion therapy camp, screened at Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival during the 1999-2000 festival season. It was also panned before finding a cult following.

Support for Marginalized Communities

Even acclaimed films following characters with queer identities are often overlooked for recognition during awards season unless they are tinged with sorrow. Todd Haynes’ 2015 film Carol was famously passed over for a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. Despite six nominations in other major categories including Best Actress for Cate Blanchett, Best Supporting Actress for Rooney Mara, Best Cinematography, and Best Adapted Screenplay, many were left to speculate if the Academy (whose panel was 77% men at the time) was not willing to embrace a lesbian love story with a predominantly-women cast to match. 2017’s ceremony saw a historic win for Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. Compared to the preceding and following award seasons, this seems to be an exception to the rule. pest

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in “Carol”, 2015

Now more than ever, it is important to support films that give voices to marginalized communities that have been underrepresented on the big screen. While films with negative reviews can and do bring in audiences (I’m looking at you, Suicide Squad), critical reviews can make or break pretty much anything that isn’t backed by a major comic book franchise. I felt a deep connection to Mercury’s story, and was refreshed by the film’s portrayal of both his bisexuality and his Parsi heritage. If we aren’t seeing the same reception from critics, the least we can do is give these important films word of mouth.

Music On The Brain

Music has a powerful effect that can change the world. As humans, we use music for many different purposes. We seek entertainment by going to concerts. Find joy in listening to a song or album that we particularly like. Music can also help us in ways we need. Who hasn’t cried to a good break-up song when you feel as if your heart has been ripped out of your chest?

Music helps get us through all of our problems and helps make life a little more tolerable.

Studying With Music

As a college student I find myself constantly listening to softer music when I am studying. It helps me put away the distractions. All over campus you will see students with headphones on, listening to music, trying their best to concentrate.

Have you ever noticed listening to music will help you relax and reduce stress? This can be a big plus when studying for a test, or finishing some big project that’s coming up.

The Mozart Effect

The Mozart Effect is a popular theory, that suggests that music can enhance your cognitive abilities. The effects can change depending on the person and type of music they are listening to. For many people listening to heavy metal won’t be ideal when studying but others enjoy loud and noisy music to help them concentrate.

I suggest more indie or classical musical. It relaxes you and can really get you in the zone for some studying.

The Brain and Music

In your brain you have your cerebellum. This is considered the mini brain because it breaks down the initial sensory stimulus. The stimuli then goes to the thalamus which interrogates the signals for any signs of danger. It does this by communicating with the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, for stored historical sound/danger associations. The thalamus links to the amygdala to initiate an emotional response, e.g. fear if a danger signal is detected or tranquility if the signal is familiar. The amygdala works out how one feels about the sight of someone brandishing a knife compared to the sight of puppies. It is through this same interaction between the low-level and high-level processing units that the brain categorizes sound into music. 

Playlists for Studying

Here are some tunes on Spotify that might help you get that A.

https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/0PRs1Xaui4zCv9LdIIt20X

https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX8Uebhn9wzrS

https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWXLeA8Omikj7

 

Smashing Pumpkins; A Smashing Success!

Super Smashing Bros.

Smashing Pumpkins made their return to Salt Lake Tuesday night in all their glory. Its almost Halloween, so who wouldn’t want more pumpkins in their life right now? With electrifying sounds that stunned the crowd, this concert was nothing short of phenomenal. It isn’t a surprise that when the Smashing Pumpkins announced an original line up tour, tickets would sell out and, sell fast. It’s been almost 20 years since the Pumpkins reunited with a tour. Through break ups and rough patches, dedicated fans lined the arena with a sense of excitement like children on Christmas morning.

Crowd in an Uproar

As I watched the people take their seats, I noticed an enormous age range, from teens to long-time parents. The large scope of devotees created a rare occurrence that not many bands are able to achieve. Different decades of people filled the arena from die hard fans donning original black “ZERO” tee shirts to today’s rock and roll youth. Either way the audience thrived at the spectacle.

The concert opened with a short video promoting important icons throughout the bands career, album art from Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness plastered the screen. 

When a bright light peered through a curtain of smoke to reveal one bald head and a shiny guitar, screams erupted that shattered the calm and destroyed the silence. This was it! Beginning the show was Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness  (the song). Behind lead singer Billy Corgan, was a film reel of photos that defined his past and illuminated his childhood.

 Dances of the Audience

Older fans waved drinks of beer and cocktails as their hips swayed to the sounds of mellow beats. It was songs like “1979” and Landslide that inspired people to wave phone lights like lighters- reliving the good old days in 21st century fashion. While songs like Cherub Rock and Mayonnaise  thrilled the audience. In addition, the stage provided energetic strobe lights of red and green with immaculate guitar solos that lasted for days! The stage choreography was like something out of a dream, wrapped up succinctly in the overall performance. This was a band at the top of their game. 

All the songs were praised by the audience in a storm of hand claps and foot stomps. Echos of lyrics paraded through the arena. Concert goers filled open spaces with dancing of 90’s angst and countless head bangs while rock horns saturated the crowd. The concert adrenaline voiced a roaring cacophony that transcended the stadium walls.

Return of the Pumpkins

The three hour concert consisted of twenty eight original songs with classic Pumpkin covers in between. With the founding members Billy Corgan, James Iha, and Jimmy Chamberlin united once again, the Smashing Pumpkin’s sound was on par with the original recordings. The band’s return to Salt Lake City gave a concert that united generations of grunge and a true alternative rock vibe to modern day fanatics. Indulging in a 90’s daydream, this performance will give Pumpkin lovers a night to remember.

 

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

Ron Pope at the Utah Arts Festival

 

In today’s music culture, Ron Pope may not be a popular household name. However, it should be.  As a fully independent artist, Pope has been navigating the music industry without record label restrictions. This makes the Pope his own boss. It gives him a genuine, original sound that can not be found in any other band.

Ron’s Roots in the South

Because of his background in the South, southern blues and folk roots are heavily represented.  An accompaniment of rock and roll rhythm gives Pope’s music and upbeat blues a vibe that encourages everyone to clap and sing along. Songs like “Ain’t No Angel” and “Can’t Stay Here” have a southern rock sound that screams Willie Nelson and Creedence Clearwater Revival. As a large number of his songs are in a high tempo rock genre, Pope has an opposing side that slows the speed down as he performs beautifully composed love ballads that make your heart sing, songs including “A Drop In the Ocean” and “In Your Bones” are perfect demonstrations. Therefore, with every song having a completely different attitude and individuality, Pope’s insanely powerful voice is as smooth as scotch.

Pope Performing at the Utah Arts Fest

However,  you can count on there being something for everyone in his music. Ron Pope play a killer set at the Utah Arts Festival. He displayed a personality that was funny and charismatic. He told us jokes and stories that filled the crowd with laughter and joy. If the concert goers of last night don’t remember the music, they will surely remember the quirky stories. Like about how Pope’s pick throwing skills are better than his instrument skills. He says that “he’s been practicing pick throwing since Ronald Reagan has been president”. Between heartfelt lyrics, smooth sax sounds, and blues riffs of the guitar, there’s everything to like about Ron Pope.