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!

 

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

“Injury Reserve” Review: Self-titled album makes underground waves

Intro

Injury Reserve has been tearing up the underground scene with mixtapes since 2013 with a repertoire of hits and 2 lead up-singles before the release of their debut album. The timing for its release almost went under the radar due to being the same day as Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR, but the group almost relishes in its underdog status among the music industry

The trio, Steppa J. Groggs, Ritchie with a T, and producer Parker Cory come together on this debut LP in a show of unison to release some of the strongest songs the group has put out to date. With gritty lyrics and grimy, mechanical production Injury Reserve establishes itself as one of the most experimental and trendsetting projects of 2019 for better or worse. Without further adieu, let’s get right into it.

Listening through

We open up with “Koruna & Lime” with a grinding synth line which establishes a tone for the experimental nature of the rest of the album. As their first full commercial debut the group sets itself apart with the off-kilter beats to keep the listener following along. 

This continues to “Jawbreaker”one of the singles released before the album. Layered vocal hooks of Pro Teens sets an offset beat and cruel melody for which the song sits on. It accentuates Ritchie’s talent of witty observational comedy and rap. The track starts with him making fun of Instagram accounts used to sell clothing, then it effortlessly turns into a fast-paced rap track. It that almost overtakes the beat in the best way possible. The track also features up and coming female rapper Rico Nasty showcasing her ability as an MC. It adds a much needed flare of personality and contrast to the common culture of hip hop.

The other single,“Jailbreak The Tesla”, also does a great job showcasing the group’s weirdness. When first hearing the song name I was amused and also immediately noticed the Aminé feature. He is a frequent collaborator with the group, previously featuring them on his single “Campfire”. The track uses a deconstructed melody sample of “Tokyo Drift” by Teriyaki Boyz, a hit single from the Fast and Furious movies. The entire track gives an eerie, high-tec futuristic racing vibe through a series of random bleeps, bloops and vocal shifting. This is a true testament to Parker Cory’s skill of being able to create a solid melody out of this mash-up of sounds. The track also hosts to Aminé’s funniest line yet to me: “Elon on them shrooms/ And Grimes’ voice gon’ be the GPS (Turn left)”

This track is immediately followed up with “Gravy n’ Biscuits”It is a step-back from the intense production we’ve been hearing to a more laid back jazz rap beat. Groggs also shines on this track with more rhyming couplets then you’d know what do with and possibly one of the catchiest hooks they’ve done to date. 

It would be remiss to not mention “Rap Song Tutorial”. It is a comedy skit with Ritchie simplifying the rap music-making process to a 5 step tutorial narrated by Siri. I’d be a liar if I did not say the infectious hook “FIGHT ME” has been stuck in my head while writing this.

From here on, “Wax On” featuring Freddie Gibbs is superb and shows off Freddie’s versatility on just about any beat. Speeding and slowing his flow as the song goes, he establishes himself in the forefront of lyrical rappers in the 2010’s. Another highlight was Ritchie coming to terms with his song meanings and interactions with a fan on “Best Spot in the House”. It was a cool touching moment you don’t often see from the more standoffish character that Ritchie can be. The other songs around this 2/3rds point didn’t stand out too much to me apart from the finale. The DRAM feature on the RnB-esque “New Hawaii” was novel at best. I found the song to almost drag on for too long. 

Speaking of that, the finale track “Three Man Weave” is probably my favorite song on the record. It’s the smoothest joint on the album. It time-traveled me to “S on Ya Chest” or some of the other laid-back tracks a la the albums Floss and Live from the Dentist Office. Rightfully so the track features the gang reminiscing on where they’ve been and how far they are now. A solid ending.

Standout tracks

Sick tracks: “Koruna & Lime”, “Jawbreaker” (feat. Rico Nasty & PRO TEENS), “GTFU” (feat. JPEGMAFIA & Cakes Da Killa), “Jailbreak the Tesla” (feat. Amine), “Rap Song Tutorial”, “Wax On” (feat. Freddie Gibbs), “Three Man Weave”.

Meh tracks: “What a Year It’s Been”, “New Hawaii”

Overall impression

Overall, this album has outstanding production and lyrics. They set it apart from the rest and gives a welcoming breath of freshness to the genre. You can tell the group really wanted to set themselves apart and they did just that. Although the album drags for a little bit, they still pick it up at the end. This self-titled debut is exactly what they wanted to put out in just how uncompromising and experimental the project is.

Rating: 4.3/5

Album Review: Science Fiction by Brand New

As a long time fan of the rock/emo band, Brand New, I was more than ecstatic to find out about the release of their fifth (and most likely final) album, Science Fiction. Even though Brand New released a few singles before the official release of Science Fiction, it would be the band’s first new album in 8 years since Daisy, which was released in 2009.

As Brand New is known for, there was little marketing or press before Science Fiction’s release date, which definitely caught a lot of us off-guard when the album finally came out. But even with their minimalistic approach to marketing, they still managed to reach #1 on Top Album Sales for the week of September 9, 2017 on billboard.com

So, without further ado, here is my track-by-track review of some of my favorite songs from the poignant and solemn, Science Fiction.

1) Lit Me Up 

The song starts off with an eerie vintage recording of a therapy session where a woman retells a dream. It then fades into a minimal instrumental that beautifully highlight’s Jesse Lacey’s vocals and lyrics. Although many of the tracks on this album are vague in their meaning, “Lit Me Up” arguably has a theme of awakening.

To me, “Lit Me Up” tells the story of someone who has become numb to themselves and the world around them, until some sort of catalyst awakens them and reignites their passion for life, or presumably anything else they’ve become dull to.

“Lit Me Up” is a perfect entrance to the album; it sets the tone and beautifully leads into the next track.

2) Can’t Get It Out

“Can’t Get It Out” begins with crisp guitar strums and a more high-paced rhythm, but it’s certainly not more uplifting in terms of lyrical content. Ironically, that seems to be the message of the song.

There’s speculation that the song is about Lacey’s own musical history. Many of his songs aren’t considered to be happy or positive by listeners. And with the lyrics “I’ve got a positive message, sometimes I can’t get it out,” it seems that Lacey (or the song’s subject) struggles with an internal conflict of not being able to effectively communicate their true intentions or emotions.

3) Waste

Moody, heavy, and low can best describe the album’s third track, “Waste.” While it’s not my favorite song off the record, it definitely serves a purpose. It’s almost a paperweight or anchor in between the rock and roll style of “Can’t Get It Out,” and the light and dreamy aura of “Could Never Be Heaven.”

The lyrics are about self-destruction, being at your lowest point, and trying to piece yourself back together again. Lacey sings “And maybe one day, you’ll find your way, to climb on up out of your grave, with the bits of you you managed to save…”

4) Could Never Be Heaven

This might be one of my favorite songs from Science Fiction. It’s melodic, airy, and heavenly to listen to. However, there’s something compelling about Lacey’s voice and the warm harmonies in the song that grips the listener.

“Could Never Be Heaven” is also one of the more difficult songs to decode lyrically. While I’m not certain of what the song is about, there are strong motifs of death, heaven, water, religion, and love.

There’s also a strange vintage recording at the end of the song that discusses what it means to be truly authentic in your individuality, or if the act of trying to be an individual hinders that authenticity. It’s hard to say if this excerpt is connected to “Could Never Be Heaven,” but it sure does add an obscure and thought-provoking impact on the song.

5) Same Logic / Teeth

“Same Logic / Teeth” brings back the loud and emotional side that Brand New is typically known for. The song discusses self-destruction, guilt, self-loathing, and manipulation. Even though the topic’s dark, there’s something in the song that resonates with all of us to some extent.

6) 137

Instrumentally, “137” isn’t very exciting at the beginning. However, the sparse sounds emphasize the lyrics, which are the primary focus of the song. “137” seems to be a portrayal of nuclear war with the lyrics of the first chorus being: “Let’s all go play Nagasaki, we can all get vaporized, hold my hand let’s turn to ash, I’ll see you on the other side.”  

The song also ends with a loud cacophony of sounds which is presumably an audio metaphor for the chaos and distress of a nuclear disaster.

(137 is assumed to be a reference to the radioactive isotope Caesium-137)

 

7) Out of Mana

“Out of Mana” was the first song I heard from Science Fiction, and it definitely ties the most into the album’s title. The guitars on this track are immediately distorted and heavy. This, combined with the catchy chorus and unconventional lyrics had me replaying this song for days.

“Out of Mana” heavily references technology and video games in the lyrics and title. While this might just be the band having fun with obscure topics, I think there might be a deeper meaning that connects overcoming challenges digitally with overcoming challenges in real life. Either way, the song is still a thrill to listen to.

11) 451

3 second into “451” and you’ll surely be nodding your head and tapping your toes along with it. The song is rhythmic, up-beat, and intense. “451”, along with “Could Never Be Heaven” are most likely my top 2 favorites of the album. It’s a perfect song to play in the car with sunglasses on and the windows rolled down.

However, after scouring my mind and the internet, there doesn’t seem to be any clear answer to what the song means. The lyrics “A million suns won’t fill you up if you can’t see the wine flowing over your cup.” discusses being unsatisfied with more than enough, and the title “451” is assumed to be a reference to  Ray Bradbury’s novel Fareinheight 451.

 

 

Review: The Life of Pablo by Kanye West

The Life of Pablo

Originally titled So Help Me God, then switched to SWISH, then changed to Waves, and then finally confirmed as The Life of Pablo, Kanye West’s seventh studio album serves as a hallmark for all his emotions and experiences throughout his career. Listening closely, one could recognize elements adopted from each one of his previous albums- the gospel sounds and rebellious nature from Late Registration and College Dropout, the prosperity from Graduation, the romantic and sexual sentiments from 808s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and the arrogance and aggression from Cruel Summer and Yeezus. What was extremely amusing was the hype and controversy surrounding the release of the album, as people did not know what the hell to expect but much was anticipated.

Maintaining the sonic genius inside him, Mr. West takes us to the extremes with his provocative yet pious messages. In the song “Ultralight Beam,” Kanye emphasizes, “I’m tryna keep my faith, we on an ultralight beam, we on an ultralight beam, this is a God dream, this is a God dream, this is everything, this is everything.” Reminiscent to his track “Jesus Walks” from The College Dropout in 2004, Yeezy asks God for guidance through the temptations that bound him. We all know Ye loves God, almost as much as he loves himself. Moreover, in “Father Stretch My Hands, Parts 1 and 2,” Kanye simply wants to “feel liberated” from the media and obsessions of the world. In addition, he reflects on his accomplishments and fame in the most egotistical way possible. He even has a song titled “I Love Kanye,” which highlights his personality over the years and how fans love Kanye “like Kanye loves Kanye.” On the song FACTS, he critically disses Nike and boasts about Yeezy, his clothing line of shoes under Adidas. Let’s not forget about Kanye’s undisrupted lust for the ladies, for he spills a little bit of his fantasy love life from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on The Life of Pablo. In My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye basically foreshadows his marriage with Kim Kardashian on the song “Hell of a Night,” where he falls in love with and marries a pornstar. While she’s not quite an all-out pornstar like those who star in sexmature.xxx films regularly. In The Life of Pablo, he tries to suppress his concupiscent enticements and remain loyal while being in such a relationship on the song “FML”. Kanye goes in hard with straight bars alongside Kendrick Lamar on the song “No More Parties in L.A.” There are several other awesome featured artists on this project such as Andre 3000, Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, Young Thug, Chris Brown, and Rihanna. The production is incredible as always, and he drowns listeners with deep emotional melodies on songs like “Wolves” and “Waves.” Depression, infatuations, narcissism, and strife are all real concerns articulated throughout this work of art.

Kanye compares himself to Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord, and Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Additionally, he is able to buy his way through the fashion industry and assert himself as an interesting, controversial figure in social media and the news. As I like to say, “Yeezy gon’ do what Yeezy wanna do.” A handful of people dislike Kanye for some of his behaviors, but one could appreciate Mr. West for staying true to who he is and straight up speaking his mind.

Mr. West says The Life of Pablo will never be on sale but can be streamed on the music service TIDAL.

Here are a few of the songs from Kanye West’s soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/kanyewest/facts-explicit