Mixtape Review :: Big K.R.I.T. Drops A Gem On ‘Em

I don’t think I’m reaching in saying that this could signify the demise of the LP.  I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve paid for very little music in the past several years, so it’s rare that I listen to a project I received entirely for free and feel like somebody’s getting shorted. This is the kind of project that makes fans wonder what could possible be left for the album, but it makes a fan of me not even care.  Artists are usually at their prime before their first studio LP when they’re still hungry, but hopefully this project is an indication that KRIT won’t be sacrificing artistic integrity for mainstream success…or that he won’t even have to.

Big KRIT’s Return Of 4Eva is a classic, plain and simple.  Will it be for everryone?  No.  Will people deny KRIT his props because he speaks with a Southern accent?  Absolutely.  Will people try to detract from the project’s quality simply because everyone else likes it?  Of course.  Such is the nature of hip-hop and some of its so-called fans’ desire to see it remain stagnant.  For the open-minded, however, this album (I’m just gonna call it what it is) was well worth the wait and will have the staying power of a classic LP.

It’s clear that KRIT has a keen ear for sound, as there’s a cohesion here that’s lacking from most mixtape projects, namely Fear Of God, which I reviewed last week.  Instead of slapping a bunch of songs and freestyles together, it appears KRIT put some effort into creating a linear vibe, from the early-morning musings of “Rise & Shine” to the late-night, roll-a-blunt-and-reflect feel of “The Vent”.  The only complaint I have are that some of the features make the project seem dated at a glance.  I don’t think anybody was really pressed to hear verses from Chamillionaire, David Banner or Ludacris.  I think people would have appreciated hearing either the newer artists he’s been known to work with recently or classic southern MCs like 8Ball & MJG, Scarface or OutKast.  The standout feature was actually Big Sant, whose verse on “Made A Lot” is more notable than any of the more established artists KRIT worked with this time out.

I won’t run down every single track on this project, because there’s really nothing to be done but download Return Of 4Eva if you haven’t already and listen for yourself.  If anything, it deserves an unbiased ear. It would be selling the man short to say who he sounds like, but you’d be foolish not to notice the influence of UGK, Outkast, 8Ball & MJG, and even the honesty and introspection of Common in his work.  It’s easy to get lost in the composition, soul samples, and trunk-ready beats, but once you get past all that, you realize KRIT actually has subject matter.  I like brainless hip-hop every now and then just like the next unpretentious hip-hop head, but KRIT’s fusion of conscious rap and Southern sounds is a breath of fresh air in a room chock full of Newport smoke.

Side Note:

On “The Vent”, KRIT makes a good point:

“If it don’t touch my soul, then I can’t listen to it / the radio don’t play the shit I used to love / or maybe I’m just growin’ up”

While we as hip-hop fans complain about what’s on the radio or TV screen, we have to remember those of us not born in the 1990s are no longer the primary audience.  Yo! MTV Raps was an epic show, but wouldn’t last today for the upcoming generation’s varied tastes.  I don’t understand why grown people complain about not being able to find good hip-hop.  Nothing worth having is easy to find and if you have Internet access, there’s no reason you can’t find quality music that fits your tastes.  But I’m also convinced that some of you just wanna be miserable, so have at it.

“Made A Lot (f. Big Sant)” x Big KRIT

“The Vent” x Big KRIT

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“Fear Of God” Is Not Godly

I’ve spent most of this year thus far waiting on this mixtape.  I’m not alone.  Pusha T clearly put on his Andre Young starter kit marketing the release of the long-awaited Fear Of God mixtape.  The anticipation may have both helped and hurt the reception of it, though.  Some have been so outspoken about how good it’s supposed to be, that it may be hard to tone down their appreciation at this point.  Some waited so long, they received the mixtape with arms crossed, screwface firmly affixed.  I feel like I’m floating somewhere in the middle.  I was a fan of the Clipse.  I was a fan of the Re-Up Gang (Clipse along with Ab Liva and Sandman, the latter of which is no longer with the group).  When Pusha decided to go solo, I was 100% for it, though I did have concerns about the loss of balance between the brothers Thornton, which made previous works almost seem symbiotic.

I rarely buy LPs.  Mixtapes, in my opinion, are the future of the industry.  Studio LPs have become for the most part marketing machines that further the label’s agenda and not necessarily that of the artist.  Unless you’re someone like Raekwon, who has built a solid fan base on virtually no radio airplay or commercial leanings, new artists are pressured to cater to the largest audience possible, sometimes sacrificing quality in the process.  Unfortunately, Pusha’s Fear Of God seems to lean more towards new-artist-LP territory than mixtape classic.  Amongst the majority of joints being proper, there are a few obvious reaches for mass appeal that detract from the overall feel of the project

Don’t get me wrong…this is a dope mixtape.  “Open Your Eyes”, “Alone In Vegas Outro” and “My God” are Pusha Ton in rare form.  Production and flow are a seamless pairing on these joints.  Those who complain about Pusha not having much subject matter are the type who like to order pizza, hamburgers, and Chinese food all from the same spot.  There’s nothing wrong with finding your niche and mastering it as opposed to trying to impress people by half-assing it in multiple niches.  That being said, there a re a few attempts at branching out that lead to missteps on Pusha’s part.  On “Raid”, Pusha enlists 50 Cent and Pharrell to basically try to emulate the same energy created on “Popular Demand (Popeye’s)” by the Clipse with Cam’ron.  The maddeningly repetitive “Touch It”, with Kanye West to me sounds like a throwaway Yeezy joint Pusha just hopped on.  “Feelin’ Myself” is by far the worst joint on here and borders on intolerable, with a syrupy hook lent by vocalist Kevin Cossom.  Exceptional lyrics from Pusha aside, this song interrupts the whole vibe of the mixtape, taking you from feeling like you have 20 kilos of coke in your trunk to 20 kilos of pure glitter.  Understandably, you can’t expect an artist to remain the same person throughout his career, especially when breaking away from a group, but it isn’t unreasonable to expect a product that doesn’t veer completely away from what you know him for.

The freestyles are where he shines, but using tracks like “Money On My Mind” and “Speakers Going Hammer” as instrumentals just make them come off dated.  “Can I Live” is a classic instrumental and something that makes you wonder why Push never freestyled to it before.  All in all, I won’t say Fear Of God is wack by a long shot.  Those claiming it’s cold hot dog water are just being contrary, in my opinion.  However, it seems to me that Pusha didn’t take full advantage of the freedom granted from mixtape creation to do the girttier, less-radio-friendly tracks that make someone like me prefer mixtapes over LPs.  Tracks like “Touch It” would be great for his G.O.O.D. Music debut, but the streets wanted a mixtape and got something that was half-and-half.  Just being fair.  At the end of the day, Pusha T is still an exciting artist and somebody I want to see more from.  Hopefully, he’s got his ear to the streets and won’t let schlock like “Feeling Myself” serve as the blueprint to his career.  Pusha’s bars are unquestionably fire, but laying them over the tracks he’s selected here is like pearls to swine on a few tracks.  But let’s not act like Pusha isn’t leagues ahead of his class.

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Remembering Nate Dogg

“The rhythm is the bass and the bass is the treboooooooh….”

The hip-hop community is burying yet another legend in the game with the passing of Nate Dogg, best known and loved for his ability to smooth out a track with his unforgettable hooks and laid-back, gangsta-ass era.  Nate was one singer you wouldn’t want to run up on and he made some of the most gangster lines come off smooth as hell.  He could take “now that I’m sober you ain’t that fine” and sing it like it was the most thoughtful of compliments to a woman. 

Today, let’s remember the man in two ways.  One, of course remembering the legacy of classics he left us with and two, by taking better care of ourselves as a people.  Nate Dogg died of a stroke at 41 years old.  I’m guilty of walking around like I’m invincible too, but this is a big wake-up call.  Got health insurance?  Good, you have no excuse not to be seeing a doctor for regular check-ups.  People are gonna have their vices and to me, life’s too short not to enjoy some of those, but you have to balance those with eating right and engaging in regular physical exercise.  We’re losing too many brothers and sisters too young.

On a lighter note, enjoy this Wikipedia entry that provides a synopsis for the classic Warren G & Nate Dogg joint “Regulate”:

On a cool, clear night (typical to Southern California) Warren G travels through his neighborhood, searching for women with whom he might initiate sexual intercourse. He has chosen to engage in this pursuit alone.

Nate Dogg, having just arrived in Long Beach, seeks Warren. On his way to find Warren, Nate passes a car full of women who are excited to see him. Regardless, he insists to the women that there is no cause for excitement.

Warren makes a left turn at 21st Street and Lewis Ave, in the East Hill/Salt Lake neighborhood[6], where he sees a group of young men enjoying a game of dice together. He parks his car and greets them. He is excited to find people to play with, but to his chagrin, he discovers they intend to relieve him of his material possessions. Once the hopeful robbers reveal their firearms, Warren realizes he is in a less than favorable predicament.

Meanwhile, Nate passes the women, as they are low on his list of priorities. His primary concern is locating Warren. After curtly casting away the strumpets (whose interest in Nate was such that they crashed their automobile), he serendipitously stumbles upon his friend, Warren G, being held up by the young miscreants.

Warren, unaware that Nate is surreptitiously observing the scene unfold, is in disbelief that he’s being robbed. The perpetrators have taken jewelry and a name brand designer watch from Warren, who is so incredulous that he asks what else the robbers intend to steal. This is most likely a rhetorical question.

Observing these unfortunate proceedings, Nate realizes that he may have to use his firearm to deliver his friend from harm.

The tension crescendos as the robbers point their guns to Warren’s head. Warren senses the gravity of his situation. He cannot believe the events unfolding could happen in his own neighborhood. As he imagines himself in a fantastical escape, he catches a glimpse of his friend, Nate.

Nate has seventeen cartridges to expend (sixteen residing in the pistol’s magazine, with a solitary round placed in the chamber and ready to be fired) on the group of robbers, and he uses many of them. Afterward, he generously shares the credit for neutralizing the situation with Warren, though it is clear that Nate did all of the difficult work. Putting congratulations aside, Nate quickly reminds himself that he has committed multiple homicides to save Warren before letting his friend know that there are females nearby if he wishes to fornicate with them.

Warren recalls that it was the promise of copulation that coaxed him away from his previous activities, and is thankful that Nate knows a way to satisfy these urges.

Nate quickly finds the women who earlier crashed their car on Nate’s account. He remarks to one that he is fond of her physical appeal. The woman, impressed by Nate’s singing ability, asks that he and Warren allow her and her friends to share transportation. Soon, both friends are driving with automobiles full of women to the East Side Motel, presumably to consummate their flirtation in an orgy.

The third verse is more expository, with Warren and Nate explaining their G Funk musical style. Nate displays his bravado by claiming that individuals with equivalent knowledge could not even attempt to approach his level of lyrical mastery. There follows a brief discussion of the genre’s musicological features, with special care taken to point out that in said milieu the rhythm is not in fact the rhythm, as one might assume, but actually the bass. Similarly the bass serves a purpose closer to that which the treble would in more traditional musical forms. Nate goes on to note that if any third party smokes as he does, they would find themselves in a state of intoxication daily (from Nate’s other works, it can be inferred that the substance referenced is marijuana). Nate concludes his delineation of the night by issuing a vague threat to “busters,” suggesting that he and Warren will further “regulate” any potential incidents in the future (presumably by engaging their enemies with small arms fire).

Check out Nicholas Ryan Gant’s “Ode To Nate Dogg”.

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Thinking B.I.G.

This isn’t gonna sound positive or progressive at all, but straight up, I’d murder 37 new rappers in cold blood just to bring back Christopher Wallace (not to mention Big Pun, ODB, Big L, Pac and Pimp C).  It turns my stomach to think that in 1997, we lost the Notorious B.I.G.after only two albums.  Meanwhile, cornballs like Charles Hamilton and Yung Berg are walking around virtually unscathed (albeit shook and chainless). Still I rise, though.  Today’s about respecting the legacy of a man that changed the game in multiple ways.

Being from Cali, I first started paying attention to Biggie during the East vs West rap beef.  He actually opened the door to New York rap for me.  I sat there listening to Ready To Die and thought to myself “so this is the dude I’m supposed to hate because ‘Pac said so?  Nah”.  From there, I moved on to Nas, Mobb Deep, and Jay-Z.  Big had something for everybody…music for your jeep, for the club, for a driveby, etc.  Today, we’re not getting into who was “better” between Tupac and B.I.G., either.  Had they never got into that feud, we wouldn’t even be throwing them into the same arena as artists.  Both were dope in their own ways.

So yo…forget all the feuds and the comparisons and those attempting to take away from the man’s greatness…dead it.  Not today.

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