Category Archives: Entertainment

Daytona Review

Dante Troina
Staff Writer

Two and a half years later, it’s finally here. I’m assuming this is what King Push was supposed to be. As a fan, it’s hard not to be let down that after so much time, the album is only seven tracks, but I also expect nothing but the best from Pusha. We all know what we’re here for, Push’s style of rapping isn’t for the faint-hearted, so in the usual fashion, one listens, let’s hear it. DAYTONA.
Track 1 – If You Know You Know
The title screams classic Pusha to me. He starts off rapping over just a tick of a hi-hat, like a calm version of his verse on Don’t Like. I’m so ready for the bars coming my way when this beat drops, the anticipation is killing me but also wonderful. WELCOME BACK MR. WEST, the beat just dropped and Kanye absolutely murdered this production. Pusha is calmly just floating over the beat, controlling the chaos of it. This is what three years of waiting to make a great album sounds like, take notes, rappers who drop albums every six months. Bars are coming in from every angle imaginable, with a subtle, ‘if ya know you know’ by Push. Great intro.
Track 2 – The Games We Play
The beat starts off like a Sergio Leone western. I’m hooked. Is there such thing as a perfect instrumental? Push is gonna fit like a glove on this one. Again, he comes in so smooth but so hard at the same time. He’s not holding back, this is the official re-welcoming into his world. The chorus is so simple but very effective and provides a little breathing room to process before he beats you over the head with subtle references in his second verse. After every bar he gives, I find myself thinking, ‘true’ and, ‘yeah he’s right about that.’ The song is doing a perfect job at making me experience the instrumental but not distracting me from Pusha’s lyrical onslaught. It’s mixed to at. ‘Ain’t no stoppin this champagne from poppin,’ how in the world has no one said that line before? Another winner.
Track 3 – Hard Piano (feat. Rick Ross)
Who would’ve guessed it? A piano. Sounds a lot more suited to Rick Ross than Pusha. Pusha really has that Jay-Z in him, every syllable sounds like it’s the most important thing you’ll ever hear in your life. There’s a certain weight to his tone of voice and the words he’s saying. The beat is getting really repetitive though, I’m not sure how much I’ll be listening to this one again. Rick Ross, eh. Come on man, I’ve heard you do way better. Do not say you ‘keep the coldest flows’ while flowing with one of the blandest flows I’ve ever heard. Alright track. Next.
Track 4 – Come Back Baby
Oh man, this is dangerous. Starting off a song with a sample like that means Pusha is about to go off. Wait for it… Beat drop. Oh no, Push is talking like that cool uncle that you only see at family reunions because your mom doesn’t let you see him the rest of the year. The beat and flow are so simple but they just work. It’s gritty and straight to the point. The chorus just came in and made this a Sunday morning jam on the way to church. Beautiful sampling. Now back to bars. Gosh, this beat hits for being just a couple of distorted sounds. The sample comes in again for the chorus and is just as soulful as the first time. The double message behind this song demands another listen and the sample fits in perfectly with the messaging.
Track 5 – Santeria
I don’t think anyone was ready for that beat switch, and gosh, this song is moving. The first verse is just lyrical excellence, it’s like he’s having a competition with himself to see what the most fire line he can spit is. I’m gonna have to google what the refrain means, but I trust that it’s chalked full of drug references in another language. He’s just rapping over another bassline now, no drums, no nothing, just King Push telling a story. OHHHHH MAN the drums just came in and this is the riding out music to any bank heist ever. The build-up took its time and paid off. What a way to finish a track!
Track 6 – What Would Meek Do? (feat. Kanye West)
I feel like I’ve heard this sample before but I can’t pinpoint where. Building up to be one of the scariest beat drops of all time. Push entered with so much energy and momentum and has me standing by the second line. This beat is nastier than a Kyrie Irving crossover, sheesh Ye. Love the ‘devil on my shoulder what would Meek do?’ This is the official ‘for the whip’ song on the album. Okay Kanye, your turn. HAHAHAHA the scoops and whoops will never stop, that’s great, no entrance to a rap song has ever made me laugh harder. Kanye also comes in with momentum too, this is a lot better than his verse on Watch. He’s flowing perfectly over this, sounding like a villain, like the Joker just broke out of Arkham Asylum. Great Kanye verse. Welcome back.
Track 7 – Infrared
This is a lot like Sunshine, the outro to Darkest Before The Dawn. Uh oh, he’s going at someone, a couple pen bars, goes at Trump, uh oh. He went for Drake, is anyone ever going to forgive Drake for the ghostwriter stuff? I don’t think it should define his career, the diss feels a little late and overblown too. Push better be ready for some smoke though, this could be the beef hip-hop fans deserve. He just intentionally left Drake out of the Cole and Kendrick line. Is there going to be an album this year without some type of Drizzy influence on it in one way or another? Anyways, does Tom Brady ever scramble? I’m questioning the validity of that bar. Lyrically this track is awesome, but I’m not really with the beat, there’s not enough momentum or interest to make it a great lyrical track, something like Family Feud. Solid closer to a great album.
For a seven-track album, there is plenty to digest in DAYTONA. King Push is at his best lyrically and floats over beats with his commanding flow. That being said, it is only seven tracks, leaving much to be desired, but as I can only make a verdict on what is presented here, I’m thoroughly satisfied. Songs like The Games We Play and Come Back Baby are going to be ringing through my ears all summer, the whole album is demanding multiple re-listens.
RATING: 88/100

An Open Letter To Drake

Dante Troina
Staff Writer

Coming off of your two worst projects since 2009 being released, arguably getting your throne taken by someone who has always been seen as the No. 2, having hundreds of claims of stealing lyrics and flows, and alienating your true fan base in the process by switching your entire style to a bland dancehall hit-making machine, what’s your next step?
If your name is Drake, A.K.A. Drizzy A.K.A. The 6 God A.K.A. The Boy A.K.A. *insert hundreds of other nicknames here,* you decided to release two of your biggest singles ever, along with verses on tracks that remind everyone you’re still one of the best rappers alive.
It started when you hopped on Lil Wayne’s remix to Jay-Z’s Family Feud, and rapped like it was 2010 all over again, giving fans a much-needed flash of your old self– but that was all it was, a flash, right?
Wrong. You decided to give a quick twelve bar to everyone’s favorite group, the Migos; rapping with the same charisma that made your verse on Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 hit Poetic Justice so much fun to listen to. Spoon feed an anonymous rapper in Blocboy JB a hit with Look Alive, kick-starting a career like you did with The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, The Migos themselves, and so many other artists from 2011 to 2015 with guest verses and co-signs.
In between your guest verses, why not drop Diplomatic Immunity, a track that gives bars worthy of being held up against your classics like 5 AM in Toronto and Tuscan Leather. You know what? Why not drop another song the same night? Call it God’s Plan, it’ll become the biggest hit of your career, which is saying something, considering you’ve had 25 top ten hits, and the most ever top ten rap songs by an artist ever.
‘God’s Plan’ isn’t just a song anymore, it’s a movement, with a following bigger than some religions at this point. It’s become a go-to saying when something good happens to anyone and your neighborhood white girl’s favorite Instagram caption for all of summer. “I only love my bed and my momma, I’m sorry,” is going to be every man’s favorite saying for the rest of time; and the hugging meme from the music video is a go-to for every meme maestro’s account.
How do you choose to follow up a No. 1 hit? The only reasonable answer is another one. This time, get an infectious beat that anyone could move to carry the track. In fact, put out a music video too, maybe even a better one than God’s Plan put every famous female you can find in the video as well, for good measure. That’s sure to work.
Voila, like that, you’ve found the perfect balance in being an international superstar and pleasing your original fans, the ones that go-to your concerts and know every word to every song on Take Care.
So Drake, please, be your old self. It works. No one ever asked you to change, just evolve. Don’t let all this new found momentum turn into dust.
What do I expect after your announcement of Scorpion coming out in June? I expect the best Drake album yet. Learn from the awkward position you’ve put yourself the past two years, and capitalize. You’re the biggest thing in music culture by far now, which is a gift and a curse, if God’s Plan and Nice For What are any sign of what’s to come, I’m not worried at all about my expectations.

 

J Cole Album Review

Dante Troina
Staff Writer

J.Cole? Jermaine? Cole? ‘The real is back, the Ville is back, flow bananas, here, peel this back?’ Yes. J.Cole is back. The North Carolina rapper announced his fourth studio album last Monday and quickly delivered on his promise. So, of course, a one listen review had to be made. In usual fashion, no skips, rewinds, or pauses, K.O.D..
Track 1 – Intro
Nice. I enjoy the woman’s voice, she’s setting me up for an experience. I would say Matrix but the saxophone has a very 50’s feel to it. I’m fine with continuing the trend of intros being skits, but if this is only a twelve track album, I want to hear the most J.Cole I possibly can.
Track 2 – KOD
These drums hit. Cole is floating effortlessly over them for a smooth hook, this is his kind of track. These drums really hit, like J.J. Watt closing in on a quarterback type of knock in them. Oh! Talk that talk Cole! Hollywood Cole is back, he’s angry by his standards. Each line is receiving an ‘ohhh’ or ‘ayyee’ from me as he keeps going in on his critics. Back to the hook and I’ve lost my mind at this point. This is definitely the King Overdose portion of the album. He’s calmer on the second verse, he’s imitating someone on Actavis. Then comes the aggression again! I really missed hearing Cole rap like this. Woman’s voice is back again, listing off countless names of drugs. ‘And the strongest drug of them all…’Money, right? She’s gonna say money. Nope. The answer is love.
Track 3 – Photograph
I really like the way this beat is starting. This is a Kendrick track. I hate to make the comparison but Kendrick would be murdering this already. The hook is a definite miss for me. Verse one is a winner though, many bars that I’ll have to re-listen to later. The hook is back on, eh, the vocal inflection just isn’t my cup of tea. The strings on this beat are really good though, and Cole’s voice is really clear, which I love. I feel like I missed the entire second verse, or it just sounded too much like the first verse. Not good but definitely not good.
Track 4 – The Cut Off (feat. KiLL Edward)
KiLL Edward is obviously just Cole with a pitched down voice, I like when rappers create alter egos, do whatever you’ve gotta do to keep it fresh. Real Cole comes in and is really just talking over the beat, which sounds like a boring version of Pusha T’s Crutches, Crosses, Caskets. ‘You never would split,’ god, that is so corny. There are times where Cole’s bars are stupendously great but then there are bars like that, the complete opposite. Fade out is nice and pretty peaceful, but I’m already sick of KiLL Edward.
Track 5 – ATM
Okay, using the Kendrick pitch, wait a second, cash counter in the background. Finally! Some energy! This one seems to be from King OD’s perspective. ‘Count it up,’ doesn’t make for the best repetitive hook, but the energy makes it much more interesting than the last two tracks. This sounds a lot like something I’d hear on Section.80. Cole is really spitting on the verses, and painting a pretty vivid picture, I’d expect this song to turn in to the music video option for this album, it would work great for that purpose. I’m expecting Cole to be half dead on the next track for using all his energy on this one. Nice track.
* Note, the music video for ATM came out the next morning.
Track 6 – Motiv8
I love when songs start with old news and quotes. Holy mumble! It’s like he’s trying to sound like someone who’s on drugs. The beat drops pretty hard, but in Cole fashion, it sounds like a very calm, respectful riot. ‘Motivate, motivate,’ come on dude, this is the second straight hook where you just repeat one word. Sure you have energy, but you’re better than that. Verses are both passable but nothing pops out as special. Cool, whatever, next.
Track 7 – Kevin’s Heart
Love the title, really do. Ohhhh this is oddly beautiful and kinda weird. Reminds me of the movie Coraline for some reason. Cole’s love songs are either corny or heartfelt, this one is definitely the former. ‘All I know is how to mess a good thing up,’ yeah, that hits. He’s really going in on this first verse, it’ll be hard to come up with more relatable lines in the second one. Finally, a long, original hook, this is slowly turning into an addiction song. It’s kind of all over the place, but still a really good track. It’s hard to relate to people that don’t do drugs with a song about addiction; well done.
Track 8 – BRACKETS
More old samples, love it. The hook is simple but actually lands this time. The first verse is kind of short, but definitely good. Hopefully, the beat switches up eventually because this is a song that can get really repetitive really fast. ‘Lord knows I need something to fill this void,’ this isn’t about a common drug addict, this is about Cole himself, he’s talking in a high pitched voice, almost like a younger version of himself, talking about when he made his first million. He’s into politics now, and wow, I can’t phrase all of what he just said, but wow. When you listen, you’ll know. Amazing closing verse, great job at tying every single line into the next.
Track 9 – Once An Addict (Interlude)
Three-minute interlude? Alright. Uh oh, the woman is back, wonder where she was. More lectures about pain, man is she creepy. OH MAN, COLE!! He entered like he was already halfway through the 100-meter dash, so much momentum. Keep going, keep preaching, please. This song is crushing, he’s talking about his mom on drugs and how he didn’t know how to deal with it. That is the right way to make a song about drugs with an impact. Great track.
Track 10 – FRIENDS (feat. KiLL Edward)
Is he about to turn up? This song is just waiting for the build up. Nope. I’m not sure how I feel about this KiLL Edward character, I think I’d rather just hear Cole’s real voice saying those lines. ‘I hope you listen,’ he’s about to eat this entire track. He’s made for drums like this. He’s speaking nothing but the truth right now, people blame everyone except themselves for their own problems. I love all the different perspectives he’s talking from, and the passion in his voice is gripping. ‘Meditate, don’t medicate,’ that’s perfect, and the fact that he led it off with ‘I know this ain’t that cool but;’ is great. Good track.
Track 11 – Window Pain (Outro)
This beat is putting me in a trance, it’s hypnotizing. When Cole hits the right pitch, it’s damn near flawless. This is the best chorus on the album by far, one everyone has come to expect from Cole. Keep going with this, ohhhh the drums just came in, good lord. They hit, they hit. ENERGY! THANK YOU COLE! Bars, bars, bars, bars. He’s painting a Picasso art piece faster than Usain Bolt could ever run. Cole is going and not even thinking about looking back. WHERE WERE YOU THIS WHOLE ALBUM COLE?!?! Man, this hook. The beat is perfect, but is there a more relatable hook ever? I’m not sure. This is why everyone mentions J.Cole up there with Drake and Kendrick. Amazing track.
Track 12 – 1985 (Intro To “The Fall Off”)
Intro? Alright. 1985 would be a pretty cool year to be born in, I’d think at least. This beat has got to drop, right now it feels like a caged animal waiting to get to the jungle. I wanted a harder drop, but this is cool. He’s really going in on someone. Who dissed you, Cole? Oh no, Cole is doing the ‘I’m not mad, I’m disappointed’ talk with one of these wack new school rappers. He’s lost his temper in the most well-mannered way. Telling the rapper that he’s gonna run out of money and an audience soon, so he better grow up or get an investment plan now. ‘I hope you ain’t as dumb as you look,’ Hahaha, seriously though, which one of these stupid new school rappers thought to pick this fight was smart? J.Cole is the beating stick for all mumble rappers, putting them in the right place. Great closer.
Kids on Drugs, Kind OverDose, and Kill Our Demons are the three names Cole gave to this album, stating that the rest is up to us to determine. Focusing solely on those three titles, Cole gave hip-hop heads a very subtle thinking-piece to digest over time. As far as hitting the topics he wanted to, there is no denying that Cole absolutely nailed it; but a lack of consistently great rapping throughout the project’s short runtime really forced Cole into a hole early. Songs like Motiv8, Photograph, and The Cut Off are just plain boring. Because there are only twelve tracks, one an intro and one an interlude, there wasn’t a lot of time for Cole to really shine. When he does get in a zone (Window Pain, 1985, KOD), Cole gives some of the best songs of the year, the problem is, while this is a conceptual album, it is not nearly as energetic, entertaining, or invigorating as it could be.
RATING: 81/100

 

Joyride Album Review

Dante Troina
Staff Writer

The female equivalent to Jeremih has finally dropped her long-awaited and anticipated third studio album, Joyride. While Tinashe has had hits such as Company and 2 On to help her popularity on the radios, her career is at a make-or-break point, coming off of multiple commercial flops, Tinashe has continuously promised that Joyride will be the album that fans have been waiting for.
So, in typical one listen fashion, no fast-forwarding, reversing, or pausing, here’s a breakdown and review of every track on Joyride.

Track 1 – Keep Your Eyes On The Road
Life lessons can come in a multitude of ways, love the title. I wonder if she has some kind of sponsorship with D.O.T. for this album. There’s no turning back now, a voice says as a car circles around my headphones, I feel more scared than immersed at this point. The new trend for artists is to make the intro into a one minute interlude into the first real track. This does its job fine and sets the tone for a joyride. Next.
Track 2 – Joyride
This is the true intro, a long, ‘oooohhhhh,’ and heavily distorted African style drums. I like the matrix/Tokyo drift feel of this track, just waiting for the beat to drop. The build-up finally pays off, and vocally she’s performing very well so far. At first, the beat clashed with her vocals, but as it gets more ambient and Tinashe settles in, this becomes an experience. This album is definitely meant to play when it’s dark out. Production fade out with the violin is heavenly, thank you Travis Scott and Hit-Boy.
Track 3 – No Drama (feat. Offset)
This is Tinashe at her best. A simple beat in the background that provides enough flavor, but still lets her vocals do the heavy workload for the chorus. Offset adds quite a bit on the ad-libs and gives a passable verse. He set the bar too high for his features with Met Gala, the song was a gift and a curse for him. For a lead single, I like it. Tinashe gets to showcase her voice perfectly and delivers on the chorus. Two for two.
Track 4 – He Don’t Want It
What is this? She really loves the distortion effects. Oh, wow her voice is high. Scarily high, like it’s about to break. This album is not short on effects, Tinashe is harmonizing and layering in extra vocals every chance she gets, and constantly switching the flow of the song. This feels more like an interlude and mood shift compared to the up-tempo openers, but it’s fresh throughout the whole song.
Track 5 – Ooh La La
Holy mid-2000’s R&B!!! This song is trying to be something she doesn’t fit over. Vocally, I can’t knock anything about it, but the production is just plain awful. The creaking of granny’s rocking chair, mixed with a guitar and heavy drums and the Metro Boomin *auowe* just doesn’t work.
Track 6 – Me So Bad (feat. French Montana & Ty Dolla $ign)
A-ha, the pop section of the album has begun. It’s cool, not much more for Tinashe’s verse, the hook is definitely going to be one heard all summer. Ty Dolla $ign is the man. I can’t remember him ever giving a bad feature verse to anyone, the guy just does his job. French Montana is just being himself right now, and for this song, that’s not a good thing. This song isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it just isn’t good either.
Track 7 – Ain’t Good For Ya (Interlude)
Where are the Migos? They belong on this beat. This could be stretched out into a whole track if she really wanted it to be. This felt more like a quick detour from the joyride rather than a moving forward interlude.
Track 8 – Stuck With Me (feat. Little Dragon)
This is good. I figure Little Dragon is doing the production? Sounds like something Little Dragon would make even though I’ve never heard of them. I absolutely love the hook Tinashe is giving. Nevermind that Little Dragon comment, female/male, whatever, this person is now singing and it’s going to ruin the track. Sounds like a very discount version of The Weeknd’s whiny voice. Despite the low of Little Dragon, Stuck With Me rounds out pretty nicely with another hook and good instrumental.
Track 9 – Go Easy On Me (Interlude)
What’s up with all the interludes? She’s teaching lessons throughout this album, but it jumped from ‘wear your seatbelt’ to ‘this world is sick.’ Interesting. Next.
Track 10 – Salt
This is a new voice and a completely new feel. Not sure how I feel about it yet. Actually, this is great, what I’d assume is the chorus just came in, and it’s crashing like waves against a beach shore, in a good way. There’s no other way to explain this track except that it’s just smooth. The production is very sexy, combined with Tinashe’s voice being the eighth world wonder, Salt works perfectly.
Track 11 – Faded Love (feat. Future)
The song starts immediately and this is the Tinashe that works best, the one that needs to show up more. Bouncy, synth-heavy beat, self-harmonizing, and simple, in-the-moment lyrics. Again with the skip vocal effects, they work to perfection this time. Uh oh, I hear Future wailing. I remember when I used to get excited for him; the downfall has been quick and incredible. I think I speak for anyone when I say we wanted another Tinashe verse, or just not a Future verse. Tinashe closes out with a hook to remind me that the song is good.
Track 12 – No Contest
Ever since that corny interlude, she’s been in her zone, like the switch finally flipped on and she realized what works best. This is a classic 2000’s R&B track, something I could picture Cassie on. Tinashe is finally realizing the potential of her vocals without over-singing anything; keeping it really simple while also being able to show some range. Three for three since life lesson number two.
Track 13 – Fires and Flames
Basically the same thing but she already had a track named Flame so I guess she had to act originally with the title. Piano comes in right out of the gate and I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna like this track, Tinashe has never struck me as a love ballad kind of singer. While I’m rambling about how I don’t see this working, she’s quickly proving me wrong and making this into a good outro. I hoped for a beat switch when I saw this was four minutes, but it seems like she’s just gonna ride the beat out. This is alright, nothing special, but a passable closing to a passable album.

There isn’t much to say about Joyride, it’s an album that will just be there for the year, nothing more, nothing less. Songs such as Joyride, No Drama, Salt, and Faded Love really show what she is capable of at her best, but then, there’s the rest of the album; which ranges between fine and awful. The more artistic Tinashe gets, the more interest I lose. I don’t think anyone came into this project expecting an experience, or something that leaves you with something to think about after. The most important part of making music is knowing your audience, clearly, the potential of this album wasn’t realized, and something that could’ve been really good turned into something that is just… fine.
RATING: 67/100

Memories Don’t Die Review

Dante Troina
Staff Writer

ALBUM SUMMARY: Tory Lanez has spent, well, about seven months hyping his second album, Memories Don’t Die as one of the best albums I’ll ever hear, so it’s hard not to get expectations up after coming off of three good projects in the last two years, a handful of excellent guest features, and four and a half (thanks… Future) sonically pleasing singles for Memories Don’t Die.
To be blunt, it falls short, but that doesn’t make it a bad album at all. The release reminds me of when Drake’s Views dropped, and people were rating it 8 and 9 out of 10, but still saying it ‘fell flat.’ Obviously, MDD isn’t anywhere near the hype scale as anything Drake has ever made, but the comparison is definitely one to be made.
The album starts with a skit, just like I Told You did, and quickly leaves the skit format behind going forward. The Old Friends half of Old Friends x New Foes is beautiful, while the second half just feels like a standard intro track for today’s artists. Shooters is a solid outing for the third track but leaves much to be desired as all Tory touches on is his wrist game, wraith, and wealth. The first true R&B song on the album comes in next with 4 Me, and it’s a complete hit. I don’t think it’s one that the radios will pick up on, but on top of Play Picasso’s production, Tory makes what feels like an extended interlude into a solid track. Skrt Skrt is Tory’s annual dancehall track, and everyone feels the same way about this one, Tory is nothing short of a guarantee for a great Jamaican anthem.
By the sixth track, Tory has already touched base on all of his four genres (rap, flex rap, R&B, and dancehall), and set himself up well to go wherever from here. He chooses the hardest beat anyone has heard in a long time for Benevolent, with drums that smack harder than grandma’s newspaper when you curse in front of her, and synth leads that sound like broken police sirens dripping with trap flavor. Tory is at his best here, ‘Pablo my chick TaTa,’ reminds me that I need to rewatch Narcos again, the beat flips into an old JAY-Z sample as Tory puts on his best Rick Ross impersonation for the remainder of the track. This one is gold.
The reason there were only four and a half good singles is because Future’s verse on Real Thing is a waste of space, and comes after Tory gives one of the best hooks of the year, which makes Future’s half-assed verse all the more noticeable over the C-Sick produced banger. So through track seven, Tory’s performance on Memories Don’t Die is great, simple as that.
Hate To Say is the eighth track, and it’s trying to be much deeper than it is. A lot of the lines are braggadocious over a very mellow and humbling beat, creating a weird mix. There are a couple of jewels found in the dirt here, however, insight into his life when he recorded Litty and his ending of beefs with Travis Scott and Drake are really interesting topics, and show that Tory has finally grown up a little and accepted his place in music.
The album takes a complete 180 for tracks nine through twelve, with pop/dance bangers coming in abundance. B.I.D. is alright, but just sounds like the same topics from Shooters and becomes forgettable after a few listens. 48 Floors is cool… But that’s about it for the track. There’s nothing that pops out as special, but it’s still pleasing to the ears. B.B.W.W. x Fake Show seems like it wants to be more than it is, Tory is running all over the track, flowing easily, but the beat is stupidly generic, I constantly had to remind myself to keep listening and not zone out for the whole first half of the track. The second half of the song is just a 2010 Drake impersonation.
The best NAV feature since Biebs in the Trap comes on track 12, Dance For Me, but the five-minute track can’t be saved from its own repetitiveness. Pieces is another five-minute escapade, this time with a ‘feature’ from 50 Cent. The story being told sounds like a discount Meek Mill Tony Story, and really leaves much to be desired in the I care about this department. Tory needs a cough drop or something to help him get through this song, as he’s trying to sound like an older or wiser man but really just comes off as someone who smoked a couple cigs before he recorded his verses.
One of the two pop hit attempts on MDD is Connection with Fabolous, who sounds like a better version of Big Sean throughout his verse, besides that, there isn’t much to be had here, the beat is pretty good, and the hook is fine but overstays its welcome. Good background music.
Mansa gets his moneys worth on this album and pops back up for another feature on Hillside. His hook is excellent except for the pitch of his voice. Tory fits really well over Play Picasso’s beat, he makes a couple Hennessy references, but then just kinda cuts short, his verse may have had pretty generic lyrics, but the vocal approach and flow really saved it. I wish he gave it about eight more bars. Wiz Khalifa enters in the most Wiz Khalifa way possible with a long, ‘chiiilllllllll,’ and fits like a Rawlings glove on this track. He gave me a brief flashback to 2012 before he got generic and became a pop artist; if nothing else, I like the track for the Wiz feature.
Some rip-off Justin Beiber record plays through my headphones for the sixteenth track: Hypnotized, and track seventeen, Happiness x Tell Me, can’t come faster. The Happiness half is a story that would bring tears to the coldest hearted people in this universe, as Tory delves into the death of his mother over a beautiful piano instrumental provided by Play Picasso again. The only thing I can say about the first half is that I feel like I’ve heard this track from Tory before on Loners Blvd. The piano takes its sweet time riding out with Tory harmonizing over it, and like that, Tell Me has begun. The concept for this switch is incredible, as Tory lists all the things that anyone could say wrong about him and just embraces them on his shoulder. It’s really shocking hearing someone with as big as an ego as Tory go through hard times too, and makes for one of the best sympathy-based tracks ever.
Tory knew that he made the best track in Tell Me, so he decided to top it for the outro, DON’T DIE. Good god, the piano and drums on this beat are absolutely perfect. The keys are a 90’s nostalgia trip as Tory takes me right into the streets of Toronto with him. This is his come up story, the real one, and it’s great. The heavy guitar and vocals that are barely etched into the foundation of the beat give the song just that much extra flavor, and help the track as it just goes. His voice is as clear as it’s ever been, I know because I’m listening to every word, the bars are in abundance. He stole my soul and put it right into his mind on this one. Chills. All of a sudden I never want this album to end; the entire listen was worth it for this one.

STANDOUT TRACKS: Benevolent, 4 Me, Shooters and Happiness x Tell Me
BEST FEATURE: Wiz Khalifa on Hillside
BEST PRODUCTION: Play Picasso on Benevolent
BEST SONG: DON’T DIE
SKIP: Hypnotized and Pieces
VERDICT: MEMORIES DON’T DIE failed to live up to all of Tory’s self-made hype, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. The record starts and ends really strong, but falls off in the middle for a bit, and that’s what hinders it from being great. The album sets the bar for the rest of 2018 at a pretty high standard, having solid tracks throughout, but lacks a big hit or something as original as his previous projects.
RATING: 85/100

? Review

Dante Troina
Staff Writer

My extent of listening knowledge about XXXtentacion is about three songs of screaming and yelling rap lyrics at me, a couple of songs that creep me out a little too much to listen to, and one really good lead single for this album. I figured now was the best time to jump in head first to give him a first listen and fresh slate with the release of “?”, his latest project that came out last Friday. I have absolutely no clue what to expect, and if nothing else, this should be wildly entertaining.

 

  • Introduction (Instructions)
    Wow, this is the first ‘X’ album I’m listening to, and it starts with a skit. Okay cool. I’m not the biggest fan of skits in music but I do really like what he’s saying here, asking listeners to be open-minded in listening to his music. I agree, and think it goes without saying that you should go into any project with a clean slate. Don’t know if it needed to be said on the album in particular, but I’m fine with the message.

 

  • ALONE, PART 3
    I haven’t heard alone part one or two, *UPDATE* listened to them… meh. The guitar on part three, however, is really nice. I love the simplistic approach and very bare vocals. Drums just kicked in, he added reverb to his voice as the guitar gets louder, I like it. Short but gets the job done.

 

  • Moonlight
    Ohh this beat, it sounds like it’s being made in the same factory as a Rubik’s cube. I’m surprised already at how well X is handling these tracks vocally, he’s sounding really smooth without much autotune, and taking a fresh approach to this. I love the hook, it’s a gem. He’s just mumbling his way through the verse, but all my ears are hearing is the beat, he could literally say anything over it and it would still be a good song for the instrumental alone.

 

  • SAD!
    I think everyone has heard this track five or six hundred times already. No explanation needed for why it’s so great, but to me, it’s really the message and simplicity of the whole thing. The hook is extremely catchy and something that anyone can relate to. More tracks like this and Moonlight, please.

 

  • the remedy for a broken heart (why am i so in love)

 

This one might as well be called Alone Part 4. Another bare guitar based track. X doesn’t sing for the first time on this album, he more just talks his way through this one. Right as I typed that he hit some of the best notes I’ve heard in a while, of course. Sheesh, this guy can sing if nothing else, he’s 4/4 in my book at this point.

  • Floor 555
    The title really disturbs me and I think we all know why I’ll only listen to this track once even if I love it cause I’m not messing around with devil worshipping stuff. Here we go, this is the XXXtentacion I’m familiar left. I love the telephone style vocal effect he has going too, reminds me of Kanye on Gorgeous (before you freak out I’m not comparing him to Kanye, I just like the vocal effect). Uh oh, the yelling just started and this track went downhill fast. ‘Stuff you in the closet,’ oh no, I’m not into that kind of stuff. I do, however, think this song is still not bad and will serve its purpose greatly at mosh pits in concert. His fans will eat this one up.

 

  • NUMB
    Another guitar, I love it. Holy this sounds like a slow Green Day track, this is awesome. Oh yeah, the beat just dropped into the chorus, this one was made for me. The reverb is placed perfectly on his vocals too, keeping it bare but also having flavor to it. Minute long guitar solo for the outro? Love it. This is an early winner.

 

  • infinity (888) (feat. Joey Bada$$)
    He got the guy who made my favorite album from last year on this? Awesome. I have no clue how their styles are gonna match but this track sounds like a 90’s boom-bap already. Aww, Joey just said he’s gonna catch all the diseases in the world so no one else has to. He’s already won my heart in fifteen seconds. I swear every time I say I love a track in a review, the next one just blows it out of the water. Joey has so many bars on this that I don’t have room to say all the quotables. X is holding up well too, I never thought I’d say he could handle a track with Joey, but he’s bringing tons of energy to this right now. This is a ‘sit back and plot world domination’ type of beat. I love the fade out as Joey and X harmonize with one another.

 

 

  • going down!
    This is scary already. Piano keys and horns in the distance. 808 Mafia tag what?!? X brought everyone in for this album, I’m hyped for the drop. Yup, this beat is disgusting. It’s nasty. X is just kinda mumbling but honestly, he’s not my main focus, this production has got to be TM88 (I checked, it’s him and TrePounds). If you need one producer that still isn’t a huge name to give your favorite mumble rapper a hit, check out TM88 (XO Tour Llif3, Codeine Crazy, Goosebumps), the man has been carrying Atlanta trappers for years. X is pretty entertaining on this one too, ‘Like I’m Lil Yachty, I one night her *uh*,’ I laughed incredibly too hard at some of the lines on here. Album is seven for eight at this point.

 

  • Pain = BESTFRIEND (feat. Travis Barker)
    I got excited when I saw ‘Travis’ wanting it to be Scott but Travis Barker isn’t half bad of a feature either. Another bare guitar instrumental. I’ve loved the guitar tracks so far but this is looking like the blandest one. I can’t really understand what he’s saying, it just kinda seems like syllables thrown together in a singing voice. Oh god, that was the most unexpected thing ever, I know you heard it too. He’s not even yelling, he’s just screaming. This track is a no for me. I’ve always wondered what the other people in the studio are thinking when he just rages and spits all over the mic.

 

  • $$$ (feat. Matt OX)
    Isn’t Matt OX the weird white kid who uses autotune? Who knows, there’s millions around now. Beat sounds pretty wavy. ‘Get money yeah yeah,’ can’t disagree with that. I know I shouldn’t say this but this track is pretty catchy, and I kinda hate myself for liking it. Me and my friends could cook this whole track up in about five minutes, that’s how simple it is, but it’s sonically pleasing. XXXtentacion just got out performed by Matt OX on a track. Two people I’d never think to listen to just made something shockingly solid. 2018 is weird.

 

  • love yourself (interlude)
    How are you gonna call this track an interlude when it’s just as long as every other track on here? Half these tracks are basically interludes. Whatever. More guitar and sad lyrics, I like the mood switch, not much else to say except I actually wish this was longer.

 

  • SMASH! (feat. PnB Rock)
    PnB Rock… You have so much potential and a half-decent voice but instead, you just choose to be a generic, boring hook man. Life’s full of choices I guess; you can be a horribly discount Travis Scott and Tory Lanez if you want. This track is boring, which is saying something because half of the tracks have just been a guitar with some singing but have still managed to keep me more entertained than whatever this is.

 

  • I don’t even speak Spanish lol
    Lol, me neither. Is he really about to do this? My lord he actually is. This is a straight spanish track. X is from Miami so I guess the spanish attempt makes sense. I just googled to find out it’s a couple of other guys doing the spanish singing but they aren’t listed as features. Still, this is great, it flows perfectly. I love the way English and Spanish are mixed into the track. This doesn’t belong on this album at all but I’m totally okay with it. This is the song I’ll be playing all summer. Winner.

 

  • changes
    I chose not to listen to this single when it came out so I could hear it here, all I’ve heard are mixed reactions too so I’m not knowing what to expect. I know I’ve said it on almost every singing track in this review, but vocally this one is especially impressive. This song shouldn’t be played within a year of a breakup, it’s tear-inducing. Reminds me of a clearer and not eight minute long version of Lost Boy by Jaden Smith. I’m impressed.

 

  • Hope
    This is the song that convinced me to listen to X before SAD! came out. Without delving too deep into it, when I heard that he made a song for the kids that lost their lives in Parkland, Florida, I had to listen. I absolutely love this track, it’s simple, short, and just beautiful. A little mumbly for my liking, but he does a good job at doing what the beat needs him to do, and the central message of the song is great without being confrontational. Twelve for fifteen.

 

  • schizophrenia
    I can tell I’m not gonna like this one from the start. ‘Voices in my head,’ sorry but I can’t relate. Brief yelling, then a weird guitar riff starts with him saying everything in a punk rockish way, this would work well as movie trailer background music, it kind of reminds me of crappy action movie commercial music. Nevermind, this reminds me of nothing, he’s just screaming. ‘DON’T GIVE UP, DON’T GIVE UP,’ no pun intended but this is actually enough yelling to make me give up on this album. There were redeeming qualities about the other loud tracks but this one is just awful. Quite disturbing too, I’m never listening to this one before I go to sleep.

 

  • before I close my eyes
    Oh wow, he went from screamo from acoustic guitar, it’s a weird change but definitely a welcome one. This song is again, beautiful, and so calm coming after schizophrenia, I really enjoy it as an outro because it represents what I’ve liked from this album. Good closer.

This was shockingly an above average project that I can see myself going back to multiple songs such as Hope and infinity multiple times throughout this year. One thing I can say is that I was extremely entertained by the whole project, even by songs I thought were God awful (schizophrenia, I’m never listening to you again). X may not have a fan in me quite yet, but I can say that I enjoyed this project and will definitely listen to projects by him from here on out.
RATING: 78/100

The House that changed R&B

Dante Troina
Staff Writer

It has now been seven years since the world was introduced to the newest form of R&B, from an artist who, instead of a mansion, chose to live in a house filled with balloons.
Starting with intro track High For This, a barely 21-year-old Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, brought everyone into his dark carnival ride of a world. A world where all was told, but everything was still left unknown. As the intro starts with what sounds like a winding staircase down into his world, Abel begins the song with, ‘You don’t know, what’s in store, but you know, what you’re here for,’ and immediately makes your surroundings irrelevant; you’re inside his mind now.
Welcome to House of Balloons, a place somewhere under the moonlight of the world, where you know you shouldn’t be but you go anyways, for better or worse. There is a mysterious host of this house party, but you can only catch glimpses of him in the reflections of his glass tables; the more you listen, the more you learn. While the house makes for a thrilling party, it also makes for the best R&B album of this decade, and the one that changed everything.
As soon as the album dropped, the direction of R&B changed, people were provided the fuel they never knew they needed, for a darker and storytelling listening experience. The desire for Chris Brown and Iyaz’s sugar-coated love stories quickly faded out. There would be an occasional hit here and there of that variety, but the mainstream success of happy, pop R&B was now an afterthought and a phase that the music world had gotten over.
The Weeknd’s wave was so big that it didn’t just catch the critics ears, but also the biggest up and coming artist in the world at the time; Drake. Starting with Drizzy tweeting a link to The Party and the After Party, arguably the centerpiece of the album; and then talking about The Weeknd at his concerts to eventually surprising audiences and bringing Abel out on stage with him. What Drake did for Abel in terms of propelling his career forward and pairing brands to make OVOXO was huge, but what Abel did for Drake was arguably much bigger.
The pair collabed not one, but five times on Drake’s Take Care, the proper debut, and project that shot him straight to superstardom. Abel received writing credits for Cameras/Good Ones Go Interlude, Shot For Me, and Practice; provided vocals on fan-favorite Crew Love and served as the perfect harmony on outro The Ride.
Together, the two Toronto natives architected the sound of R&B today. Abel brought Aubrey out of his Houston phase, and with producer Noah “40” Shebib, the Toronto sound was born. A moody R&B and hip-hop mix meant almost strictly for after 10 p.m.; with a low pass filter on the drums so they stayed in the background, a swooping sub-bass, and a hazy Houston synth that could make people emotional without hearing the lyrics.
Seven years and three projects later, Tesfaye’s revolutionary sound is now the norm. Artists such as Frank Ocean, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Bryson Tiller have used the Toronto sound to their advantage in their own slanted way, and half of the radio feels like House of Balloons 2.0.
What the house on 65 Spencer Street in Parkdale, Toronto did for Tesfaye and his music can’t be understated, and what The Weeknd and House of Balloons did for music will never be forgotten.