ALBUM REVIEW: October to December Catch-Up
Featuring Megan Thee Stallion, Young Thug, Wiki, Zack Fox, WET and more!!!
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows via Parade.com
Megan Thee Stallion, Something For Thee Hotties
Tina Snow is back on her hot girl shit. This album reminds me of an early Meg Thee Stallion where she utilizes her great ability to provide fun freestyles. Honestly, this album feels a lot like a mixtape where the beats sounded familiar and not as impressive, however Meg’s performance really shined. The beats are kind of basic and some of the songs sound like they were left over from “Good News.” However, like a mixtape, it feels like it doesn’t have to follow the same rules as a studio album. Which works to her advantage. I felt like “Good News” was too polished and it focused on trying to create music that would go viral on TikTok with its super repetitive choruses that sounded a little corny. It felt very plastic to me. With this project, she raps with the same intensity as she did when her career took off with her mixtapes around 2018-2019. This time around, I like how she tells off her haters with some clever bars. Her flow goes crazy as she goes off on the faster paced songs like “Thot Shit,” “Tuned In Freestyle,” and “Outta Town Freestyle.” Even on the slower songs, she sounds great. Another big issue I had on “Good News” was that she couldn't change up her flow enough for slower produced songs where the beat would be chill, but she would have such a hard attack on the beat that it wouldn’t match the vibe at all. In this project, she was able to slow down and work on her delivery to where it matches up better on tracks like “Bae Goals” and “Pipe Up.” The only real issue I have with this project is that the beats could be more interesting. It feels like the beats loop for the entire song and that there are no real beat changes or parts that kept me super interested. The skit’s also were a little annoying. Overall this was an improvement of the last project, but I feel like Meg needs to find a producer that can create a beat to make her shine.
Wiki, Half God
The answer to “who is the king of New York?” is such a tired question to ask these days. With shows like Game of Thrones showing us a top-to-bottom view of kingdoms, we have all learned to keep our eyes on the princes, but also the paupers. Wiki, for many years now, has been the premiere pauper of modern rap. Previously belonging to a group called RATKING, he was no stranger to describing the New York underground in gruesome detail. Years passed the hiatus of that group, Wiki’s pen has only gotten sharp, in fact he’s carved it into a shiv. “Drug Supplier” sounds like a side-plot from Max Payne 2, it’s pulpy and cliche but lyrics like “If he only had a couple more minutes in him ‘til the doctor came/But that wasn’t the case/He was lost before his life was lost that day” hit me like a right hook. Meanwhile, he comes through with “Remarkably”, which recalls cracked open fire hydrants and hot summer days. Wiki harshness the boom-bap that Navy Blue provides him like a superpower, describing his city like a storybook. Speaking of Navy aka Sage Elsesser, his beat work on this entire record and his own Song of Sage has more than proven his versatility as an artist by this point. “Can’t Do This Alone” brings it all full circle, with Navy and Wik bringing the East and West Coast together. The beat has the same sunny soul sound as an Avalanches record, a total change up for Wiki. Yes, he still sounds miserable and high on shrooms, but at least he’s at the beach.
Diving more specifically into Wiki as a performer, he is a true MC. When I saw him, Navy, Armand Hammer, and Quelle Chris at the Knockdown Center, he stood out to me as the most electric on the mic. He was hitting every single line like he was speaking a different language, never missing so much as a word. He comes off as hungry, like a well-read dude who just wants it more than anyone else around him. He is bested on this record only by another new-school OG, the elusive Earl Sweatshirt. By going fully independent, he is producing and lyrically weaving his own “Earlworld” together. He shows up directly from that state of mind on “All I Need”, rapping “My matrimony to drugs/I’m having a hell a runs/I’m married fell out of love/With caring about the boy”. “Never Fall Off” is another highlight, a rare love song and moment of pure joy for Wiki. He still can’t help but be a pessimist, “Don’t wanna get my heart torn apart piece by piece” but ultimately gives in “Stayed up starred in each other's eyes ‘til the daylight”. It seems like each facet of his personality is picked apart track by track and as sorrowful as it is, Wiki never ceases to entertain. Also that Meadowlands Fair shoutout was such fucking sick, that’s like adjacent to my Jersey neighborhood. Respect.
Zack Fox, shut the fuck up talking to me
This album did not have to go this hard. Zack Fox, the comedian and Twitter personality, has dropped his first studio album, and it’s pretty interesting, the beats kind of sound like something Denzel Curry would use because they are mostly dark and sinister. Fox’s rap style even reminds me of Denzel Curry’s rap style a little as well. However the lyrics are mostly focused on jokes and punchlines like old Young Money Cash Money Productions, except these songs aren’t really about anything substantial. There are some good one liners like on “mind you business,” when he said “Got a Chevy off white, same color Lois Griffin.” Kenny Beats also produced the beat for “get off my dick” which sounds pretty great, especially on the chorus. Another song that is produced beautifully is “shut the fuck up talking to me” produced by the one and only The Alchemist. This beat sounds like it could be on an album like “Haram,” the collaboration project he did with Armand Hammer this year. Overall, the lyrics are a little childish but every now and then there is a funny line. However, the production on this project is pretty incredible. I feel like if Zack Fox wanted to actually become a rapper, he could make the transition, but since he is a comedian, I think he just wanted to stick to his strengths.
Limp Bizkit, STILL SUCKS
I am not a Limp Bizkit fan, but that is circumstantial. As a 6th grader, I pushed the absolute limits with Rated M games and Parental Advisory stickers. My parents had to give me access to the music before by purchasing me CDs, and that’s when a lot of my friends were bumping songs like “Break Stuff”. In the same way I played Simpsons Hit and Run rather than GTA San Andreas, I listened to Linkin Park instead of groups like Korn and Limp Bizkit. By the time I was able to buy my own music on iTunes, I was already fucking with System of a Down and Public Enemy. Limp Bizkit is a band for little boys, and if you miss them in your childhood, it’s very difficult to get into them later in life. With that being said, this new record of theirs is fun. At an inconsequential 32-minutes, we get piss poor throwback attempts to the glory days like “Out of Style”. It’s like Limp Bizkit fused with Weezer and are now just straight up making rock for Gen X dads, hence “Dad Vibes”. They copy Cypress Hill on “Turn It Up, Bitch” and again, it’s kind of fun. This record is an entertaining one-time listen, but that’s about it. I don’t need to hear Fred Durst rapping over upright bass ever again. It’s about as edgy as their old stuff, with song titles like “Pill Popper”, but it’s just way too cleanly produced to hit hard. It’s a very softened approach to their old sound, especially as Durst screams “Give me my medicine!!!”. Which medicine Fred, your atorvastatin and your metoprolol? Those aren’t due until 9 am tomorrow man I told you that already.
Young Thug, Punk
The newest album from Thugger is messy. It feels messy because I’m not sure what kind of sound Young Thug was trying to have on this project. There are some songs that are personal where Thugger tells us vivid stories about his past, but then it goes into trap bangers that don’t really have to do anything with the previous tracks. Intro track, “Die Slow” caught me off guard when it started off with soft guitars and an intimate performance from Young Thug, as messed up as it sounds, I couldn’t help but laugh when he was telling a story about the domestic he witnessed as a child to how he “always knew I wasn’t gon’ be gay.” This transition was so weird and out of nowhere it really shifts the focus of the song. There are some solid tracks on this project like “Bubbly” with Drake and Travis Scott, “Rich N*gga Shit” with Juice WRLD, “Scoliosis” with Lil Double 0, “Day Before'' with Mac Miller and “Hate the Game.” These tracks had some great beats, but a constant theme throughout this album is that the features kind of show up Young Thug on his own songs. These songs feel like they were like “Slime Language 2” where the features kind of took over the project. The tracks where Young Thug was by himself, sounded similar to each other and it couldn’t really keep my attention as much as the songs with features. Especially on songs like “Icy Hot” with Doja Cat. Doja Cat’s performance was what made the track sound great. Another great track on this album was “Day Before” with Mac Miller, which was recorded the day before Mac Miller’s death in 2018. Mac Miller had some great lines and it felt very poignant, but Young Thug kind of spikes the track. There is a song that sounds great with Young Thug alone on “Hate The Game.” The beat is chill and Thug’s voice sounds so smooth over it, but the lyrics are really funny to me. The song is about Young Thug gaslighting the girl he hooked up with on the first date and she sees him with her friend afterwards. He tells her “Do not hate me, hate the game, baby.” The lyrics are kind of toxic, but it’s disguised by how good he sounds on the track. Overall, this album relies on features too much and Young Thug provides an underwhelming performance.
Porches, All Day Gentle Hold!
The last time I checked out the band Porches was when their debut record, Pool, got Best New Music from Pitchfork. The twinkly ‘90s production was the strong suit for me due to a lack of vocal talent from singer Aaron Maine. A song like “Underwater” felt like slowly walking through an aquarium, with a vague love plot in there somewhere. “Mood” was another favorite of mine, really leaning into that Random Access Memories sound that Daft Punk crafted just three years earlier. Like all Pitchfork debut darlings, Porches soon fell out of favor with the website for being a one trick pony. This is all to say, I enjoyed a few songs off their debut Pool, but the album as a whole never really came together for me personally. Their new record All Day Gentle Hold ! , like their debut, is another nostalgic trip through synthpop and indie of the past. This time, the lyrical content is a little more cringe and the energy is cranked up just one more notch. This approach works just fine on tracks like “I Miss That” or “Swimming Big”, where other elements of the track are able to mask the awkward songwriting. The vocals across this record are still a major weak point, even more so than I remember on Pool. The indie rock sound comes into full effect on the closing track, reminding me of a punkier Chromatics. Overall, Porches is able to give us a decent amount to like in just 22 minutes, but the core elements of this music are just not anything to write home about.
Helado Negro, Far In
Like Porches, Helado Negro is a singer-songwriter who I’ve enjoyed in the past. I really love the song “Running” from 2019, as well as a handful of other songs from his last record This Is How You Smile. However, I never found his vocals or approach to songwriting to really be all that compelling. “Running” was deeply contemplative, yes, but it just struck me the right way. On Far In, we get a lot of the same. Acoustic guitar strumming slow jams over synthy, lo-fi production, but if that’s what you’re into, this record should count as a Standout. A song like “Purple Tones” is able to update the sounds of the ‘70s with more modern production while retaining the same kinds of melodies from that time period. On the beautiful “Aguas Frias”, singer Roberto Carlos Lange sings a somber tale in his native Spanish, with the opening lines roughly translating to “Sweet Pain, it comes when I think of you”. My issue with this record is that Lange doesn’t vary it up enough to substantiate a runtime of an hour and eight minutes. It’s all this blend of quiet storm and acoustic balladry with some bright spots brought on by the synths, as on “Aureole”. While many of you may find this to be more impressive, I am simply not into this as an entire LP.
BadBadNotGood, Talk Memory
This first time I ever heard of BadBadNotGood was when I saw a clip of them playing at Mad Decent fest. They were doing a jazzy cover of TNGHT’s nocturnal “Bugg’n”. At that time, they were mostly just doing covers and trying to figure out their sound. After collaborations with artists like Ghostface Killah and Earl Sweatshirt, they began to stake themselves out as the indie jazz guys. In 2021, they are back with a much more formalized sound. This sounds more organized than I’ve ever heard them, with formal movements. The saxophone on “Unfolding (Momentum 73)” reminds me that Pharoah Sanders would’ve played on that new Floating Points record. Track “City of Mirrors” and “Love Proceeding” have the same ‘70s jazz sound, keeping it loose and structured at once. This is definitely a record that fans of new jazz music should check out. Without a strong vocal presence to hold it all together, I am just not that interested. I’m impressed for sure, but the music itself never really speaks to me. For longtime fans of this group, I bet this will be a treat, and I hope you got what you needed out of Talk Memory.
Wet, Letter Blue
I have never been a fan of Wet. While I don’t think their music is bad, it always just read to me as passable and pastiche, rather than thrilling. The vocals have always been very ethereal, with some undertones of R&B at rock guiding them through very easy going songs. On their new record, they definitely don’t reinvent the wheel, but they seem to be finetuning their aesthetic just a little more. They are also having more fun, with tracks like “Only One” going in a UK garage/piano-house direction that I’ve never heard from this group. On top of that, they landed a GOAT modern artist in Blood Orange, who makes “Bound” more of a treat than it should be. With those melodic keystrokes and his Dev’s heavenly vocals, he essentially just makes it a Blood Orange song, and I have no issue with that. He did this on Turnstile’s “ALIEN LOVE CALL” to great effect, so good on him for continuing to bless the underground with his sound. Still, I leave myself wanting more out of this band and their tired style.