Kanye West – No More Parties In L.A ft Kendrick Lamar [Single Review]

Kanye West - No More Parties In L.A

 

If there can only be one man in music with the ability to instantly perform a musical u-turn then that man can only be Kanye West. A follow up to the more sombre “Real Friends”, “No More Parties In L.A” is completely different, both musically and lyrically. This song perfectly encapsulates Kanye’s unpredictability. After his last album “Yeezus” which was more experimental than anything he’d ever done before, a traditional sample driven song such as the one we now find ourselves preoccupied with almost seems like a step backward.

The song samples significantly from ‘Suzie Thundertussy’ by Walter “Junie” Morrison. And whilst this Madlib produced song manages to retain some of the vibe from the sampled composition, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar’s efforts manage to create a unique atmosphere primarily driven by both energetic and witty verses.The two did away with the more traditional three verse structure or what some like to call the “pop format”. Instead they opted for two very long verses. Kanye West opening Kendrick Lamar’s verse with a couple of lines is reminiscent of the back to back rap verses from times past. But this is only momentary and Kendrick Lamar is quick to take over and perform the rest of his breath taking verse.

The unmistakable swing on the drums gives the entire arrangement a very old school feel. The way in which the kick and snare are slightly syncopated is very reminiscent of a J Dilla production. The irony of this is that the late great J Dilla was a frequent collaborator of Madlib’s, and they were both known for their very distinctive styles of production which relied on heavily swung drums. And almost as if to drive home the fact that this is indeed a signature Madlib production, there is a more than prominent vocal sample repeating in the background. The bass line is very present, and apart from glueing the song together, it’s also one of the driving factors. The drums are very subdued in comparison to aforementioned elements.

Kanye seems to focus his lyrical efforts on painting an image of transition.  The lyric “Thinking back to how I got here in the first place. Second class bxxches wouldn’t let me on first base” is very poignant, and could easily be construed as attempting to pander to the male ego. But look beneath the surface and it’s clear that this is undoubtably a reference to his great success and the disparity between his past, and his present. Or perhaps it really is just another attempt by Mr. West at reminding us of how he made it. However, whilst not often credited for his technical ability as a rapper, one cannot deny that Kanye has a way with words . Nowhere is this more evident than in the lyric “When did I become A list? I wasn’t even on a list”. That is further elaborating on the contrast between his going from being a fairly average Joe to being incredibly successful.

 

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! [Album Review]

Flying Lotus You're Dead Album Cover
Flying Lotus You’re Dead Album Cover

Between running Brainfeeder Records, scoring films and performing to sold out crowds at Coachella, it’s somewhat flabbergasting that Steve Ellison still finds time to release a full length studio album. Otherwise, known as Flying Lotus, the man has come a long way since first having his music featured on Adult Swim all those moons ago.

Maturity is perhaps the simplest word to use when describing the sound of one of Warp‘s most foremost composers and producers. In practice, however, you’ll find that it’s not that simple. Songs such as Never Catch Me however, encapsulate this maturity more so than others.

Whilst the constants throughout his career have always been down to his experimental nature, it is those very same experiments that have proven to be the variables. This is no were else as present as it is in Turkey Dog Coma, a Jazz laden medley. Thundercat’s bass fingerings are ever present in all the madness that this album has to offer. This provides a familiar element, which however is contrasted by the chanting vocals and tons of specious reverb.

Coronus, The Terminator is by definition, your quintessential Flying Lotus. But it also manages to bridge the gap between his earlier, more down-tempo works and his newer sound, which is more spacious and robust.

In a world where trends dominate mainstay pop culture, it takes something truly special in order to stand out from the crowd. This is a bit of a conundrum, seeing as any step away from the norm is always feared to alienate the majority of mainstream listeners. Once again, Flying Lotus somehow manages to expand his horizons whilst exercising the pulling power of featuring the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Hip Hop legend Snoop Dogg. You’re Dead is truly in a league, all of its own.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly [Album Review]

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly Album Artwork
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly Album Artwork

Is Hip Hop dead? Well it all depends on who you ask. With Flying Lotus, Boi-1da and Thundercat plus many more featured on production, ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ was always going to be a colourful album.

At first King Kunta seems like a steady ride until the key changes start occurring at a rate faster than one’s ears can anticipate. The song seems to blend a topic of historical importance, in slavery; ‘Everybody wanna cut the legs off him, King Kunta, Black man taking no losses’, with issues Lamar perceives in the modern music industry ‘I was gonna kill a couple of rappers but they did it to themselves, Everybody’s suicidal they don’t even need my help’.

These Walls is an R&B laced and featured packed song with Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat all contributing towards the song’s final incarnation. With clean drums providing a solid backdrop, a pad, synthesizers and a lusciously warming bass all come together to provide the perfect platform for Lamar to shine.

U seems to tilt the listening experience back to the mysterious side of things. The song is a roller coast of emotions, albeit on a more depressing note; ‘Shoulda killed yo ass a long time ago, You shoulda felt that black revolver blast a long time ago’. It reveals some of Lamar’s darker moments and seems more like a moment of venting than a moral lesson.

If U presents a one-sided story of self-loathing then Alright seems to be a catalyst that might lead to a solution to that issue. The song ends in a similar manner to a number of songs on this album, with a spoken word passage.

For Sale? is another interlude, and one addressing something darker, with the seductive ‘Lucy’ representing Lucifer. The song is addressing one of humanity’s oldest superstitions in a deceptive manner, clothed in a soulful aroma.

Hood Politics as the name suggests is a politically driven number. The song, whilst essentially repetitive at a melodic level, seems to offer more in terms of thought provoking lyricism; ‘They tell me it’s a new gang in town, From Compton to Congress’.

By the time the album begins to wind down, you realize the importance of this offering from Kendrick Lamar. If not his opus magnum then the album at least marks the beginning of Kendrick’s stint as one of, if not, the top dog in Hip Hop. With many already proclaiming him as the new ‘King of Hip Hop’, Lamar shines on The Blacker The Berry.

The dynamism of Kendrick Lamar is evidently on display throughout this masterpiece. Having nearly broken Spotify with first day hits peaking at more than 9 million streams, it’s fair to say that Kendrick Lamar has reached new heights in his career.

Flying Lotus – Never Catch Me ft. Kendrick Lamar [Single Review]

Flying Lotus - you're dead album cover
Flying Lotus – you’re dead album cover

Perhaps what’s most appealing about Flying Lotus is both the depth in his music as well as the visual appeal. From idea to execution, this is a man who is constantly on the move.  Never Catch Me is taken from the native Californian’s latest album ‘You’re Dead’.

This song is a contradiction in and of itself, in that the mellow sounding pads somehow sit well with Kendrick Lamar’s energetic performance. The song gradually builds up to the constant sound of a synth pad backed by some slightly swinging drums.