I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it: Album Review

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The 1975 are one of the emerging British bands in this new breed of talent and it must be said that the hype around this group is huge. With frontman Matt Healy viewed as a major sex symbol thanks to his provocative lyrics and abnormal fashion sense, the group have become an ‘indie sensation’ and are looking to follow on their successes of the eponymous debut album with this work. There was huge anticipation in the build up to this album that the band would provide a new sound and a variety to their musical capabilities. Do they succeed? Let’s find out.

The 1975- 6.5/10

Similar intro to that of the debut album. A decent tone setter but not a lot to it; it’s pretty much just a longer build up to the next song before an abrupt end.

Love Me- 6.5/10

A funk style guitar track on this the lead single of the album. A bizarre vocal that appears a bit all over the place with no one note the same. You can tell that the band are trying to move off in a new, never before heard direction but it just doesn’t seem to work. As they try to create a funk jazz style sound nothing clicks. Okay but nothing more, nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary about it and I must admit I was surprised they released it as a single.

UGH!- 7/10

Despite the guitar tune sounding a bit year 6 disco it is overall a fairly good song. An improvement on Love Me as the vocal works effectively in cohesion with the instrumental as it isn’t too straining or particularly mind-blowing. Will probably make you tap your feet a bit but draws a few more blanks than it does fire on target. A lot more like the 1975 style people are used to but in comparison doesn’t come close to Chocolate and Girls.

A Change Of Heart- 8/10

Lovely change of scenery with this song, a softer approach both vocally and instrumentally. Although in the chorus, which contains no lyrics, it sounds like the sort of thing you would hear in a Legend of Zelda game. A strong message of women and how a lifestyle changes their appearance. Quite ironic to diss girls for sleeping around when that’s all he does according to his other music but people will enjoy this song and it’s honesty.

She’s American- 7.5/10

Sped up beat and groovy guitar style, fast paced vocal; almost rapping at the start before fading into a more regular tempo. Much more memorable and usual chorus that works very well with the rest of the song. Lyrically speaking, the song is about another girl he’s met that is American this time and she provides national stereotypes based on Healy’s appearance. Not really the lyrics of a genius but a positive track with a catchy style regardless.

If I Believe You- 6.5/10

Trying to go a bit gospel with this track, limited instruments and a choir in the background to try and maintain that effect but in my eyes it really doesn’t work. Fairly good vocally but that’s about it with this song. Jazz bridge does provide the song with a bit of joy but the song really drags on towards the end. Could hardly describe this song as enjoyable.

Please be Naked- 5.5/10

Mysterious as it gets, no vocal at all but a variety of sounds. Not really sure what the point of it is no matter how soothing a sound it may be. Head scratching as to why the band have actually decided to do a song like this.

Lostmyhead- 5.5/10

Doesn’t do a lot to raise spirits and eradicate boredom but still nice sound mixed with faint blurred vocal. Picks up halfway through but only slightly with no vocal support. Not sure about these two tracks being part of the album really.

The Ballad of Me and My Brain- 7/10

Maintains the choral style in the background but finally Healy’s voice returns fully. Much more like it with a passionate vocal and good all round band contribution. Deep message behind what goes on in his mind and how far it’s brought him. No chorus and just one verse of fully clear vocals which is a bit slack but apart from that I liked this song.

Somebody Else- 8/10

Highly emotional song that shows a really soft side to Matt Healy. Great, catchy instrumental with lyrics poured straight from the heart of Healy himself. Groovy is the word I would use to describe the beat behind it but still not a fast paced, doesn’t destroy motive of the song which is important to the song’s success. Conversation between Healy and what appears to be his conscience in the bridge of the track, questioning whether or not love is actually that important considering the pain it causes.

Loving Someone- 6/10

Underground sound mixed with the alternative twist the band are known for. Taking a step back and analysing his life, perhaps he is too sex orientated and should be focusing on finding true love for the long term. Completely opposite opinion to that of the previous song, showing that his mind isn’t that decisive when it comes to love. Okay song but not a lot to it really, seems a bit like a filler to provide contrast to the previous song.

I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it- 6.5/10

Another soft vocal with minimal effort seemingly. More focus again on the instrumental trying to sound like an alternative electronic vibe. Song stops halfway through to fade into a similar sound where instruments and sounds are added individually to create a bit of a mesh of noise as the song picks up. Again I’m not sold on the limited vocal but the backing track is soft and easy to listen to.

The Sound- 8/10

Upbeat, much like the debut album hits that made them develop such a strong fan base. Like a modern twist on old school jazz music which works effectively. Definitely a chart hit like ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Girls’ from debut album. Positive message from the track which puts a smile on your face and is impossible to not sing along to. Good track, one of the best on the album.

This Must Be My Dream- 7/10

Keeps positivity going with this toe tapping track, celebrating how this girl makes him feel with “did I tell you about this girl?” They appear to have a set style for these positive songs and it appears to work regularly, catchy being the word that comes to mind. Not as good as previous song but still a solid effort.

Paris- 7/10

Mellows back down but lyrically remains very romantic with dark sides of self harm and drug use in the background as a reminder of the current society we live in and endure on a regular basis. Praise of Paris as a city, connotations of the city of romance. Decent track but not massively memorable for me.

Nana- 8.5/10

Song dedicated to his late grandma, full of emotion and times he has missed her. Squashes a belief in God but hopes “you are listening.” Rememberance of a moment on her deathbed, instant regret for not saying enough things. He honours her in the best possible way with this heartfelt and beautiful song. Sure to be a relatable song to a huge number of people.

She Lays Down- 7/10

Soft track with just Healy’s vocals and a guitar, non studio version to show pureness and clarity of voice. Clearly about a girl but keeps the emotions of the last track at a similar level. Completely stripped down and a strong way to finish the album which went in all sorts of directions.

Overall- 6.5-10

I have to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of the 1975 and as I prepared myself to listen to this album, my expectations weren’t that high; but after listening it I can say it is a lot better than I expected. It’s still not going to be one of the best albums in what is sure to be a talent filled 2016, but fans of the band will absolutely love the more honest sound provided.

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Phase: Album Review

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Winner of the 2016 Critic’s Choice Award at the BRITs, Jack Garratt is sure to have a breakthrough year similar to that of previous winners such as James Bay and Emeli Sandé. His debut album, Phase, was released on February 19th and has been described as “unrequited love mixed with dubstep” which would provide a sound that nobody has heard before. Could it spell the beginning of a long and successful career for the High Wycombe singer?

Coalesce (Synesthesia Pt. II)- 8.5/10

A seemingly mellow beginning to the album, that is until a monumental bass switch changes the whole complexity of the track. This explosion of sound is led wonderfully by Garratt’s moving vocal. This is sure to amaze those who expect a typical solo singer/songwriter album. A colossal beginning to the album and just a small dose of what to expect.

Breathe Life- 9/10

Lead single released from the album and you can see why. Reached number one in the charts for a reason. This electronic love story provides a magnificent variety of sounds, like Ed Sheeran and Disclosure’s love child. It’s a great track with catchy and heart-warming lyrics, making it a chart hit.

Far Cry- 8/10

A soulful piano smoothly mixed into a fast paced techno pop before cutting back to a piano. It really is impossible to keep up with the transition of sound throughout this track but they work very well regardless. Garratt’s vocal range is also highlighted by a large number of high notes being hit. Lyrically it’s a nice song as he wants to show his love to a girl and needs her to bring out the best in him as a person. It’s an infectious track, but that’s like the whole album really so that’s not really a surprise.

Weathered- 8.5/10

With a similar style to that of Imagine Dragons or AWOLNATION, this underground sound mixed with negative lyrics about growing old gives a darker tone than we are used to from the other tracks in the album. The song does pick up, however as the beat goes hand in hand with the lyrics, as the lyrics become positive about the girl he loves, the beat becomes more uplifting. The song eventually smooths into something quite beautiful by the end with backing vocals on the track being reminiscent of a gospel choir  which again links to the lyrics in which he discusses death. One word, brilliant.

Worry- 10/10

For me, this is the best song on the album. It’s a break up song showing how he has to pick the pieces of a broken relationship up all on his own. He has to “pick apart the pieces you’ve left” telling his former love “don’t you worry about it” almost in a sarcastic and aggressive manner. Bass heavy chorus again with a high key vocal that works absolute wonders on this track. Not much more I can say about this track other than it is borderline perfection for his style and genre that he appears to have invented.

The Love You’re Given- 7/10

A melodic beginning that plays a soft instrumental to twin Garratt’s light vocals. The combination of the electric drum set and piano again works wonders as they provide a fantastic contrast in musical styles from generation to generation. This soft beat doesn’t stay forever, though as the track slowly intensifies and more instruments are added. By the end the song becomes more of a club track, with a strong bass that almost drowns out Garratt’s vocals, thus making his voice more of a backing instrument. It is a decent track but in comparison to the rest of the album it is quite weak. Despite this that is hardly a grudge on the song itself because the standards of this album are incredibly high.

I Know All What I Do- 7/10

This song allows Garratt to show off his impressive vocal range as once again instruments individually add to the track as the backing track builds slowly. Once all of these instruments are added the vocals become echoed by the volume of the backing track and the dubstep focus of his style takes a forefront. There isn’t a lot to say about this song, it can’t be described as one of the more memorable ones off the album but it is a strong vocal performance.

Surprise Yourself- 8/10

Garratt provides a soulful voice alongside a strong beat in this song. The chorus picks up the pace of the track despite not having notable lyrics and just having a continual note being sung. It’s an uplifting song with a positive message of quality of life, a brilliant addition that will please many listeners.

Chemical- 8/10

A clapping beat to begin the first verse gets completely blown away by an unexpected beat drop as the song transforms into a rejuvinated house track. The instrumental holds an unorthodox sound that compliments his voice magnificently. The clapping is seen as a build up towards the drop which is memorable and makes this song one of the best on the whole album.

Fire- 9.5/10

Fire by name and nature for this song, as the connotations are highlighted throughout (“erupt, flames, burn”). Another love song where he appears to struggle with the brash and exuberant character of the woman he loves. A wonderful drum and bass sound is created in the second verse after a short and snappy chorus which provides yet another dimension to an already immensely complex song. I didn’t think it would be possible for this many sounds to work on the same song but somehow Garratt pulls it off and makes it a truly fantastic track.

Synesthesia Pt. III- 7.5/10

The vocal of the first track is sampled here too but with a different beat added to it; a beat full of energy and bass. The whole track feels like a bit of a mess, almost as if he turned every instrument up to full volume at once and pressed record. In the grand scheme of the album it does somehow work well, however.

My House Is Your Home- 8.5/10

This live studio recording of a soulful piano track works wonders to end the album by showing his raw talent. The beauty and power of his vocals are fully on display here as he bleeds his heart out to a girl clearly in need of someone to be there. The passionate piano solo played through the bridge of the song is passionate, a real throwback to how music used to be in the days of Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel. Just a man and his piano. The result is magical and a truly fitting end to a brilliant album.

Overall- 9/10

This album is the most original piece of music I’ve heard in a very long time. The ability to just mix two completely different genres like that and make it work the way he has already makes Jack Garratt one of the big names in music currently. From track to track his ability to spice things up and add new elements to his music arsenal is unbridled, it gives him the power to go in literally any musical direction he pleases with large success. For me it is the best album of the year so far, just surpassing Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo based on pure originality. Keep your eye out for Jack Garratt, he is about to have a colossal 2016.

EVOL: Album Review

imageAfter a monumental 2015 which saw him propel to the top of the rap industry, Future has released a new project; just 4 months after  his immensely successful joint mixtape with Toronto rapper Drake (What A Time To Be Alive). As well as this mixtape, which flew to the top of America’s billboard chart thanks to its underground and infectious production, Future also had success earlier in 2015 with a solo album called DS2; the album was praised massively for its original style which Future himself has become renowned for.

Ain’t No Time – 8/10

Great introduction to the album. A lively beat with a catchy chorus that highlights his lavish lifestyle and the money he earns. Really sets the tone for the album and could even please a few neutrals who aren’t sure on Future’s very specific style.

In Her Mouth – 6.5/10

With a similar beat to the first song, this song shows his personal struggle with drugs and the police while growing up in the area he did. This is an effective tool on the track and makes you look at the album as a whole differently, thinking that the reason he does all of these drugs now is because he has been forced into it while growing up. Okay track but hardly memorable.

Maybach – 7.5/10

This track is a bit all over the place with sirens, snares, drum beats and backing vocals all coming at once. A sign of humility within the track too by stating “I’m just vibing”, showing he’s a music and fashion guru but doesn’t quite understand how he’s become so big so quickly.

Xanny Family – 7/10

Another snare style beat that works very effectively before it slowly fades and puts the majority of attention on the vocals of Future.  Lyrically the track has a message, whether you agree with it or not is a different matter but it can be described as a typical Future message. Women being invited into his “team” so they can have sex with him. His “Xanny Family” is his team that he parties with and does drugs with. It’s a good track with a strong vocal performance but does drag on slightly.

Lil Haiti Baby – 7.5/10

This has a much more aggressive beat and was made as a proof of his credentials. The song was created to brag about how far he’s come and asking where the haters have gone now he is successful. A continuous mentioning of money, drugs and jewellery hardly comes as a surprise in this album but he reiterates that none of those things would be available without his fame. The change of tone into a slightly more aggressive key, showing the passion of his trade is a highlight of this song as Future provides one of the best songs on the album.

Photocopied – 7/10

The electronic beat of this song gives a techno vibe mixed in with Future’s typical flow. His voice however does seem to be utilised as more of a backing vocal with the instrumental at the centre of the track. Vocally, Future adds distortion to his voice that dips in and out throughout the track to highlight when he raps important lyrics. “I’m a savage type” is something he mentions to highlight his life and treatment of women. This won’t go down well with many people but Future fans will appreciate it.

Seven Rings – 7/10

Future epitomised in a track. He’s looking out for his team and ensuring they share the success with him, an admirable feat of remembering where you started. He seems very thankful for the support he has been given and now that they are reaping the rewards he seems very happy and at peace. The mentioning of drugs, women and money will never disappear though.

Lie To Me – 8/10

A wonderfully chilled out beat, something you would expect to hear from Chance The Rapper just with a very auto tuned vocal. The name dropping isn’t as obvious here but there is a definite hint towards having Drake on his side and warns people to start a rivalry with him. “I got to live with this crown on my head” shows that there’s a vulnerability about him and he is struggling to cope with his monumental rise to fame. This is a great track and something we don’t usually see from Future but it will be a pleasant surprise for most listening.

Program – 6.5/10

Every line ends with “The Program” which is a link to his rise to the top. He wants everyone to be aware of the success he carries and he does this through name-dropping, most notably of President Barack Obama and how the two met. It was a signal of intent from Future, suggesting that he must be a big deal if the biggest man in America is inviting him to meet. By st

Low Life (feat. The Weeknd) – 9/10

The best song on the album by an absolute mile. The feature and impact of The Weeknd is recognised even before his vocal can be heard. The beat takes a turn from the whole project as a more mellow instrumental begins rather than the typical pulsating style Future usually possesses. A major element of The Weeknd’s success throughout his career has been his unbelievable vocal range but in this particular track we witness a stripped back version of what we usually expect from Abel. This doesn’t shy away from the fact that his lyrics are still touching and meaningful, providing an insight into how he lives his life. As for Future, his lavish lifestyle is something he deems worthy of mention; describing his life as one big party which involves turning hotels into “trap houses” as he puts it. Despite all of these party oriented lyrics, there are also underlying tones that Future may perhaps be looking for a girl to be his wife but the temptation of “broads” is too strong for him to ignore. The contrast of voices on this track work very effectively as the crispness of The Weeknd provides a balance for the distorted and fast paced vocal of Future, making this song an absolute hit.

Fly Shit Only – 7.5/10

An emotionally fueled instrumental mixed with a heavy drum snare beat which creates a great sound for a strong ending to the album. As the title of the track suggests, Future is proud of his lifestyle and has reached a point where only the best will do. The title of the track is repeated throughout the chorus while the verses imply he is hunting for women to do drugs and have sex with him along with relishing in his fame. The emotion in the smooth beat however provides an opportunity to dig deeper and find a darker undertone to the song, that perhaps the flash cars and the women are just a cover up for Future’s true feelings which he can’t even seem to release through his lyrics.

 

Overall: 7/10

The album as a whole has a great flow from track to track as it appears that Future has handpicked the position of each song carefully and precisely. The album begins at an incredible pace of instrumental and flow but eventually slows down and provides a darker message that deep down the lifestyle of Future isn’t exactly what he wants, and this works wonderfully throughout the album. It’s not on par with DS2 which was one of the best albums of 2015 but it certainly doesn’t put Future to shame. Basically, if you’re a fan of Future, this album will go down well and provide enjoyment; if you are not a fan then you’ll not enjoy it.

The Life Of Pablo: Album Review

image.jpegSo, after months of anticipation, after months of tweeting and promises that it would be the “album of a lifetime”, Kanye West is back. Love him or loathe him, his music influence is unbridled, one of the biggest artists of his generation, certainly the most controversial, the rapper from Chicago has a discography to be envious of and its just been added to. This will be a breakdown and review of each song individually and how the album as a whole ranks alongside his other works.

Ultra Light Beams (feat. Chance The Rapper)

What an opener. Links perfectly to Kanye’s description of the album, calling it a “gospel album” and the gospel choir behind his voice while he repeats the line, “we on a ultra light beam” which connotes his religious faith and healthy current life position. A steady but effective beat is then set alight by fellow Chicago rapper Chance The Rapper, sure to have a colossal 2016 with an album imminent. A flow that a rapper of Kendrick or J Cole’s calibre would be proud of, Chance sets the tone for the album and is without doubt the pick of the features. Good work Kanye.

Feature: 10/10

Overall: 9/10

Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1 & 2(feat. Kid Cudi and Desiigner)

Another futuristic beat, this time much more upbeat, the sort of song in which the video would have a backdrop of a sunset across a golden beach or something along those lines. “I just want to feel liberated” is a line repeated in Part 1 as he shows a sensitive side that has been unveiled in the production process of this album, perhaps showing that he is in fact capable of showing human emotion. Who knew? Comical lyrics such as “if I get bleach on my t shirt, Imma feel like an ***hole” show classic Kanye flow and a typical message of attracting the wrong kind of woman, I wonder how Kim feels about that.

Part 2 is very reminiscent of Yeezus, an aggressive beat with short, snappy lines before a far from smooth transition into a gospel sounding backing track. The feature of ‘Desiigner’ and his well known ‘Panda’ verse also adds a new dimension to the track, injecting some energy into what seemed like a preaching Kanye.

Feature: 8.5/10

Overall: 7/10

Famous (feat. Rihanna)

Two words. Taylor Swift. This song is riddled in controversy due to his supposed “offensive and misogynystic” lyrics aimed towards American sweetheart Taylor Swift, stating that “I made that b***h famous”, of course referring to the VMA awards debacle. Besides that lyric, it is a solid track that features the ever powerful Rihanna, who’s vocal performance is far from that of FourFiveSeconds but a strong showing nonetheless. Consistent referrals to south side Chicago show his roots and that he will never forget where he came from, despite his awe-inspiring and often brash personality, as demonstrated in this track.

Feature: 7.5/10

Overall: 7/10

Feedback

Arrogance personified again. Starting the song implying that people were “sleeping” on him and now he’s back and “about to get this paper.” Near impeccable flow with typical Kanye references such as racism and his own genius. “Name one genius that isn’t a crazy” is definitely reference to the media’s attack on his arrogance and his often crazed behaviour, calling himself a modern day poet, or “Steve Jobs mixed with Steve Austin.”

Overall: 8/10

Highlights (feat. Young Thug)

Stop the abuse Kanye, Ray J has endured enough. Yet another shot at the man responsible for Kim Kardashian’s sex tape is a highlight of this track. The first track he has released with genuine recognition of his “superstar family”, calling them “the new Jackson’s.” Wow. He does also provide an infectious beat which is sure to catch some attention. One criticism however, Young Thug is minimal in the track, we expected more.

Feature: 5.5/10

Overall: 7.5/10

Freestyle 4 (feat. Desiigner)

About as Yeezus as it gets, hardcore aggression twinned with a siren style beat to grab attention, and that’s exactly what it does. Lyrically, it’s not his strongest piece but I can’t say that is the primary intention of it. It is surely there to prove his brash and aggressive side hasn’t completely disappeared and he hasn’t changed lanes completely from Yeezus. As for a feature, Desiigner shows up, does his thing for a bit and leaves. Nothing more and nothing less than ok.

Feature: 6/10

Overall: 6/10

I Love Kanye

The audacity of it. Ending every single line with his own name. No beat, just him and his gigantic ego. However, the meaning behind a lot of the lyrics in this track are very true. He combats the major criticism fans have given him over the years, and that is “I miss the old Kanye.” We’ve all said it at some point and now he’s taken it on board and wrote something similar to a skit found on his Late Registration album. This is a very good song and one that will definitely get people talking which has to be mission accomplished in the eyes of Mr West.

Overall: 9/10

Waves (feat. Chris Brown)

A track that sounds sure to be a chart hit if he ever releases the album to the public, outside of tidal of course. Chris Brown does what he does best and provides a solid and catchy vocal to an upbeat and positive beat. A return to the charting and infectious beat making Kanye perhaps? One verse of a Kanye vocal does seem a bit off however and is the reason this track hasn’t been rated higher.

Feature: 8/10

Overall: 8.5/10

FML (feat. The Weeknd)

Edgy, dark, distortioned. A real insight into the struggles of Kanye’s fame and how difficult he finds it to achieve the greatness he deems necessary for himself and his family.  This fact is highlighted by the twisted transition mid way through the song, in which Kanye repeats the words “don’t stop your loving” in an almost painful but demonic manner. This desperate tone in his voice is a result of the stress and trauma his fame has caused, incredibly effective. The Weeknd has been deployed on this track to expert effect as his hallowing voice provides an echo to what Kanye has been saying in verses but in a more memorable chorus.

Feature: 9/10

Overall: 8.5/10

Real Friends (feat. Ty Dolla Sign)

Old school Kanye West, relatable issues, out of the ordinary rap music as opposed to the shaded world of drugs and guns. It came at a stage of when day one fans were starting to lose the faith in Kanye rekindling that old fire of College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation albums, which provided joy and very relatable lyrics to a diverse range of people. The topic of who is a true friend in life and who is just there momentarily. A beat largely influenced by his earlier music, twinned with a magnificent Ty Dolla $ign feature, what more could we ask?

Feature: 9.5/10

Overall: 9.5/10

Wolves (feat. Frank Ocean)

This was first played on Saturday Night Live in the summer of 2015 but with Sia and Vic Mensa instead of the back from the dead singer Frank Ocean, who has shown his face after a long drawn process regarding his still unreleased second album. A truly chilling track which wouldn’t be out of place on a film trailer for a thriller/horror blockbuster, but you can’t help but prefer the first version with Sia and Mensa as opposed to Frank Ocean. It was wonderful to hear from Ocean, however, as his voice is unique and unrivalled in that genre. We have been informed by Kanye himself via Twitter that he will “fix” the track which I can only assume means a return for the original version. That would make this song rank a lot higher in the album but it is still a great track nonetheless. Kanye’s auto tuned voice to provide a dark and mysterious undertone must also not be ignored, but his rap verse feels a bit shoe horned into the song and a bit out of place.

Feature: 7/10

Overall: 7.5/10

30 Hours (feat. Andre 3000)

Andre 3000’s production value is put into true effect on this track as an infectious beat has been crafted for Kanye to again show off his true rap ability, something that has reoccurred throughout this album. The lyrics show his lavish lifestyle and how much he enjoys it, as well as looking back at how far he has come, now not showing nerves in anything he does. As well as this there are lyrics that may be aimed at Amber Rose but that much hasn’t been confirmed. Mentions of how he gave his ex “the best times of her life” to then say she’s gone downhill since he left. The only criticism of this song would be that it feels a bit dragged out towards the end as Kanye begins to shoutout different people over the top of the beat and it all just seems a bit unnecessary, as nice as it all is. This fact shouldn’t take away from the track itself as it is a good addition to the album that shouldn’t be under-appreciated.

Feature: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

No More Parties in LA (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar, need I say any more? Two of the biggest names in the industry going head to head in who can create the best possible verse and it was a treat for all listeners. A sample used from a track originally created by Drake’s uncle believe it or not, the best allows for Kanye and Kendrick to show off their killer flow and they duly deliver in this early contender for rap record of the year. Kanye just edges Kendrick on this track in my opinion and that really is the highest praise a rapper can be given. Kendrick hardly ever gets outdone in a track and when he does, he’s still incredible, as is the case here too. All in all it’s a near faultless song that has to be the best on the album and may well be one of the best of Kanye’s whole discography.

Feature: 10/10

Overall: 10/10

FACTS (Charlie Heat version)

When Kanye released the original version on New Years Day, he had everyone in shock at how many shots he fired at Nike, Michael Jordan and even Steve Harvey?! But those aggressive shots at Nike, whom he has feuded with since he left them for Adidas, couldn’t distract from how poorly made the track was. A rip off of Drake’s ‘Jumpman’ with a slightly less memorable beat, this track needed work and it got the works thanks to Charlie Heat. His new and improved beat for the track made it a much more enjoyable song but couldn’t distract from the lyrics. Ye they were jibes that Kanye can be proud of to show his development as a designer, but musically, no. The worst track on the album for me.

Feature: 7.5/10

Overall: 5/10

Fade (feat. Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign)

Wouldn’t be out of place in a club, a strong underground beat that will go down a treat no matter where you are. Kanye uses a heavy autotuned effect on his voice to provide that element of distortion, linking in with the electronic vibe of the song. Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign do a great job pitching into the track and making a catchy repetition without overdoing it. Ty Dolla $ign is ever reliable on this album and does a great job on this track as well as ‘Real Friends’.

Feature: 8/10

Overall: 9/10

 

The album as a whole is a great project and well worth the wait. It’s another change in direction by Kanye and shows his diversity that no one album has sounded the same. The Life Of Pablo is a better album than Yeezus and ranks similarly to Graduation, Late Registration and The College Dropout but falls short against his two best albums, 808s and Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Album: 8.5/10

 

Kan-Ye or Nay?: Is Kanye West the most influential artist of his generation?

 

Kanye West has been in the music industry since 2003, as we come closer to his 13 year anniversary of debut single ‘Through The Wire’, the question is now being asked as to whether there has been a more influential artist in this generation than the rapper from South Chicago. With album number eight now under his belt (The Life Of Pablo) , I will break down his albums and highlight the true influence of each and every one of them.

The College Dropout (2004)

Kanye’s debut album, released on February 10th 2004, was a real statement to the rest of the industry, an announcement to everyone that he was single handedly going to change hip hop as we knew it. The most impressive part of this whole album was the fact that just a year earlier, Kanye West had been involved in a near fatal car accident, it resulted in him having his jaw wired shut for six weeks and requiring reconstructive surgery. His journey from the crash to the recording studio is an anecdote he often refers to throughout the album due to its almost fairytale like nature. As mentioned in ‘Through The Wire’ Kanye wanted to squash the stereotype of “coke and birds” being the focal point of lyrics in rap, and instead highlight the importance of “spoken word”. One form of praise for the album was his soulful and melodic approach to the production of hip hop music, something people hadn’t seen before. Songs such as ‘Slow Jamz’ and ‘All Falls Down’ provided fans with fresh content and a different message within the lyrics. By approaching issues such as family trouble and self-consciousness Kanye provided relatable music for anyone to listen to and involve themselves in. Another element to Ye’s music was his deep involvement with religion, which was highlighted by single ‘Jesus Walks’. His rapping ability helped portray the subliminal message of the song, in which he questions the state of hip hop due to the shock of releasing pro religion music compared to the almost normality of promoting drugs and sex. It showed the bravery he possessed to tackle rap music and make it a respectable genre that can create role models for children.

First week album sales: 441,000

Awards: Best Rap Album (Grammy)

Peak chart position: 2

Late Registration (2005)

After having his first album go 3x platinum, Kanye had the always difficult task of replicating his initial success with an equally groundbreaking follow up album. That was exactly what he did with ‘Late Registration’ which was another link to his failed school days and that perhaps his music career is reminiscent of the new school era. The major element of this album was the growing fame that Kanye was witnessing, and with that came more power for him to speak his mind on larger issues such as politics. What came from this fame was music that appeared very power hungry and money oriented. With tracks like ‘Gold Digger’ and ‘Diamonds From Sierra Leone’ his sampling ability was recognised globally as he took timeless classics from music royalty such as Ray Charles and Shirley Bassey and added a new spin upon them to create an infectious rap beat. As well as this Kanye kept his original motives of rap in check with the huge smash hit ‘Hey Mama’ which, as expected, was written in honour of his mother, who raised him alone from a young age. As we discover later on with the passing of his mother, this song becomes all the more powerful and heartfelt for Kanye and his mother, whom he describes as his “best friend”. One song came under heavy scrutiny for it’s controversial lyrics questioning the presidency of George W. Bush, who West had made clear he disliked. In ‘Heard Em Say’ featuring Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, Kanye states that “the government administered AIDS” in order to shrink population. It was this ability to speak his mind without hesitation that made the world fall in love with Kanye and his brash arrogance, momentarily anyway.

First week album sales: 860,000

Awards: Best Rap Song (Diamonds From Sierra Leone) – Grammy

Best Rap Album – Grammy

Best Solo Rap Performance (Gold Digger) – Grammy

Album of the Year – Rolling Stone

Peak chart position: 1

Graduation (2007)

After establishing himself as a global star, Kanye West had achieved heights he could only have dreamed of. With this fame of joining the elite at the pinnacle of the rap industry was always going to lead to feuds and clashes. The most notable of these came with illustrious New Yorker 50 Cent, who from 2003 to 2007 was the unbridled biggest name in rap. His style of rap completely contradicted that of Kanye’s in that he took all the struggles of gang violence and concrete warfare into the studio with aggressive, hard hitting lyricism. Both artists were signed to Universal Records and were scheduled to release their albums at the same time. So it would be ‘Curtis’ vs ‘Graduation’ in a winner takes all scenario to be the undisputed king of modern hip hop. When it came to it, Kanye absolutely crushed 50, it wasn’t even close and was seen as the day gangster rap died. Pop rap tracks such as Stronger and Champion allowed for Kanye to demonstrate his magnificent sampling skills buying compare, even more so than his previous albums. This project was more of a pop style record as Kanye adapted his style to become a ‘chart artist’ and break away from that underground style of College Dropout. It ended the trilogy of what appeared to be Kanye’s school days in music terms and left fans eager to see which direction their loveable rogue would go in next.

First Week Album Sales: 957,000

Grammy Awards: Best Rap Album

Best Rap Song (Good Life)

Best Solo Rap Performance (Stronger)

Peak Chart Position: 1

808’s & Heartbreak (2008)

He’s soared to the top and there doesn’t seem to be any stopping Kanye West. This supreme confidence that he showed throughout his rise gets the biggest hit its ever had when his mother, Donda West, tragically dies after collapsing in Hollywood in late 2007. After this event Kanye understandably goes into hiding from the media and then surprises us all with the release of his fourth album, the depressing but intriguingly titled ‘808s & Heartbreak’. If Kanye’s credentials of variety were ever in doubt before this album was released then they were all crushed into nothingness after this record as Kanye provided a distorted and electronic sound which created seemingly a new artist. The lead singles off this album were still chart hits despite sending a cold and depressing message within them. ‘Heartless’ and ‘Love Lockdown’ were an open invitation into the heart and soul of West as he sings about past relationships and how in fact he isn’t this arrogant personality people presumed he was. At the time of release the album did well but never reached the heights of previous projects due to its acquired symbolism. In fact, it has taken many avid music fans a number of years to discover the true genius of this work. Something which is even more mind blowing is that this album is one of the weakest works of Kanye’s discography according to many. Despite this the album has received huge praise over its time, with Rolling Stone describing it as the most groundbreaking album in the history of music. A bold claim indeed but one which can quite easily be agreed with given the rapid transition from pop joy to electro depression.

First Week Album Sales: 450,145

Grammy Awards: 0

Peak Chart Position: 1

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Where now for Kanye West? He’s just released one of the most bizarre yet innovative albums of the 21st Century and has opened up about losi his mother. He has also found a new girlfriend in model Amber Rose whom he separates with soon before the album release, prompting the meeting of now wife Kim Kardashian. Oh, and he’s unleashed his anger at the media and award ceremonies by storming on stage and spoiling Taylor Swift’s 2009 VMA awards acceptance speech. Well, what follows is what many regard to be the greatest album in the history of hip hop, not bad going. The lead single of this album, ‘Power’ was a sign of dominance and sheer genius as her relates himself to a god like figure, stating that “no one man should have all that power.” ‘All Of The Lights’ was a return to pop culture for West as the iconic production alongside the features of Rihanna and Kid Cudi created a masterful track which became a club banger and a heart wrenching story all at once. What made this album stand out more than anything was the features, name after name of huge talent and monumental ability. Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, Rihana, Pusha T, Bon Iver, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross, the list goes on as each artist supplies a new twist to each song. There was more variety in this one album than in most artist’s discography entirely, whether it be the soothing and melodic sounds of ‘Lost In The World’ or the aggressive, throwback rap sound of ‘Monster’ there was no telling what the next track would sound like. Surely there was no way of Ye topping this album, nobody could.

First Week Album Sales: 438,000

Grammy Awards: Best Rap Album

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (All Of The Lights)

Best Rap Song (All Of The Lights)

Peak Chart Position: 1

Watch The Throne (2011)

The excitement for this when it was announced that Kanye West and Jay Z would be recording a collaboration album was something that rap had rarely seen before. There was such a huge buzz around this that it simply couldn’t fail and it really didn’t disappoint. The lead single, ‘N****s in Paris’ has to go down as one of the most legendary rap songs of this century for its absolutely genius production and witty lyrics. Heavy influences of iconic black artists such as Otis Redding, whom the song ‘Otis’ is sampled from and dedicated to, and Ray Charles are twisted into an awe inspiring rap record by two greats of the genre. A world tour soon followed for ‘The Throne’ and two consecutive years of accolades, so much so that the pair won the award for best rap performance in back to back years at the Grammy Awards. The giveaway of Kanye West’s domination was that he defeated himself in certain categories with his previous work ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.’ This confirmed West’s place alongside Jay Z himself as a truly infamous figure in rap.

First Week Album Sales: 437,000

Grammy Awards: Best Rap Performance (Otis)

Best Rap Performance (N****s in Paris)

Best Rap Song (N****s in Paris)

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (No Church In The Wild)

Peak Chart Position: 1

Cruel Summers (2012)

Although not technically a Kanye West album, his influence was heavily felt as the entirety of his record label, G.O.O.D Music joined forces to create a whole project together. The works of Pusha T, Kid Cudi and Big Sean alongside Kanye created a modern hip hop mesh of club bangers including ‘Clique’, ‘Mercy’ and ‘Cold’ which were some of the biggest anthems of the year. Despite this it can’t really be classed as a master stroke of West’s and anyone with at least a minor knowledge of rap music would gladly admit that ists the worst project he has produced. It did still serve a purpose, however and became somewhat of a building block onto his next project which would perhaps be his most bizarre turn of all…

First Week Album Sales: 205,000

Grammy Awards: 0

Peak Chart Position: 2

Yeezus (2013)

Kanye’s attitude reached outrageous levels at this point and it caused many run ins with paparazzi, including a scuffle in which he was charged with assault in late 2012. West decided to release this anger in the form of music and it turned into the album we know as ‘Yeezus’. As it was so delicately named, you can tell exactly what Kanye is feeling when writing this album, nothing but arrogance and an ego-driven lifestyle which you could argue he has warranted over his career. The release of ‘Black Skinhead’ which is the lead single off the album blew everyone away with its pulsating, energetic beat and aggressive lyrics aimed at racial hatred and his own perception. This release of catharsis was a real signal of intent from West, and also a sign of things to come from the whole album. Songs such as ‘New Slaves’ or ‘Blood On The Leaves’ were singles released with similar motives of racism being targeted and Kanye wanting to change that. The whole album became an anti-confederate message and was a large influence in attempting to eradicate racism in America. It became his SEVENTH consecutive album to go Platinum on sales, a statistic which really is remarkable. Describing the album as a similar situation to that of 808s & Heartbreak, Kanye believes that this album will not be truly appreciated until long after its release due to its diversity and variation. Despite all of this commercial success musically, the main attraction of this era was his ‘Yeezus tour’ and the fashion line that followed it. It was at this time that Yeezy became a visionary in more than music as he created a masterpiece setting for every single one of his shows, showing it off as more of a visual act than just being a concert. His Yeezus line gained worldwide recognition and led to a huge number of people wearing the merchandise even if they didn’t enjoy the album. That’s just the power of Yeezus, a borderline biblical figure by now.

First Week Album Sales: 327,000

Grammy Awards: 0

Peak Chart Position: 1

The Life Of Pablo (2016)

Probably the most eagerly awaited album of the last 5 years, The Life Of Pablo was released a year later than expected after changing its title three times. A series of Twitter rants, a sold out Madison Square Garden Fashion Show and a streaming service meltdown later, we were graced with the latest project of Yeezy’s timeline and everyone was ready. Question marks were raised instantly over the album’s title and what it actually entailed but it appeared open to the listener’s interpretation. Features were the main selling point of this album, as there were more big names on this album than there would be on a compilation record such as Now That’s What I Call Music. Chance The Rapper, Future, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Chris Brown and the Weeknd are just a few of the names on this huge track list and it raised the quality of the album tenfold. As a whole it became a fashion oriented record as Kanye bragged about his deal with Adidas and fired shots at Nike after their controversial split a few years before. It was an album that was also riddled with typical Kanye West antics, whether it be the shot firing at Taylor Swift, with West claiming he ‘made her famous’, or the old school reminiscing track of Real Friends, which I believe to be one of the best songs he’s ever produced. This album had all the credentials to be a chart hit and sell in its masses, except for one minor detail. Oh yeah, Kanye didn’t release a single hard copy of the album, and kept it exclusive to the streaming service ‘Tidal’. Smooth move…. For this reason he didn’t chart and, for the time being at least, wasn’t nominated for awards due to its late release.

First Week Sales: N/A

Grammy Awards: N/A

Peak Chart Position: N/A

 

So, is Kanye West the biggest and most influential artist of this generation? My answer, yes he is. There is no current artist with a larger and more impressive discography than Kanye and the mere mentioning of his name sparks discussion. He has produced what many call the best album of his genre ever and has the ability to spice up his sound and style with every coming album, he also revolutionised a whole genre and made people view the way rap was being produced differently. He sent a positive message on his introduction to music and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, a trait which many people may not like about him but who would enjoy a music industry full of Taylor Swift’s and Chris Martin’s? People who will never ever disappoint anyone or say anything the media wouldn’t want them to, it would just be boring. Music needs Kanye West and I challenge anyone to name a bigger artist in this generation. Bar Beyoncé, nobody comes close to him.

2015: the year of rap music

The year of 2015 has seen the largest surge of rap success since its inception, with more artists than ever producing top quality content to release for a newly discovered mainstream audience.

The year started with a bang as within two months, projects from Nicki Minaj, Rae Sremmud, Joey Bada$$ and the incredibly successful mixtape from the godfather of rap himself, Drake. The first of Drake’s two mixtapes provided fans with an alternative sound to what they usually expect from the Canadian, almost an edginess that people haven’t seen before. With an enhanced ego from the previous projects, songs like ‘Legend’ ‘Energy’ and the pulsating ‘6PM in New York Freestyle’ were able to be released and show the confidence Drake has built and how he feels as though he is producing legendary music, calling himself “number one”. These albums well and truly set the tone for 2015, with Minaj’s Pinkprint album being Grammy nominated along with Drake’s ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ for best rap album.

The months of March and April were arguably the honeymoon period for rap, producing two of the best projects of the year in Big Sean’s ‘Dark Sky Paradise’ and the sure to be legendary ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ by Kendrick Lamar, which broke just about every boundary possible regarding racism and apartheid of his ancestors. It provoked so much opinion it even resulted in President of the United States Barack Obama to call ‘How Much A Dollar Cost’ his favourite song of the year. High praise from arguably the biggest figure on the planet made K-Dot’s God like status in the hip-hop industry seem all the more immortal. With Drake’s mixtape gathering pace, Big Sean topping the charts with hit songs such as ‘I Don’t F**k With You’ and ‘Blessings’, and Kendrick Lamar crushing stereotypes, March and April ensured that hip hop was announcing itself to the world for a huge year. As well as these two, a dark horse album was created by former member of Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt. His third studio album, ‘I Don’t Like S*** I Dont Go Outside’ stuck to the traditional regime of Earl and his music by showing a bleak and depressing approach to his upbringing and releasing all of his anger and frustration into his music. This type of rap can be seen as very relatable to most and this helped the album hugely as it targeted a very defined group of audience.

The months of May, June and July ensured that the pace didn’t slow as more huge names in the rap scene were producing high quality content. The controversial Tyler, The Creator released his fourth studio album as a solo artist with ‘Cherry Bomb’ which brought back the classic sounds of N.E.R.D and mixed it with the smooth jazz vibe that influenced Tyler so heavily during his youth. The highlight of his work being the song ‘Smuckers’ where he managed a collaboration with Kanye West and Lil Wayne, bringing the best out of the pair of them. From one diverse style to another allowed for Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky to release his follow up album to ‘Long.Live.A$AP’ which was hugely successful for his aggressive approach and throwback rapping style. Rocky’s new work, ‘At.Long.Last.A$AP’ allowed for him to show his creativity and branch off into a new direction of hip hop. With tracks such as ‘Holy Ghost’, ‘Everyday’ and ‘L$D’, he allowed himself the freedom to flow naturally to smoother beats and thus create more meaningful lyrics, regarding love, religion and affection. Without doubt the highlight of the album was the Kanye West produced masterpiece ‘Juxebox Joints’ which mixed a jazz beat with a natural slow jam and brought the remarkable ability of Rocky and Kanye out, with a heavy fashion influence within the lyrics. The third major work to be released in this time of the year was Meek Mill’s highly anticipated ‘Dreams Worth More Than Money’ which promised many high profile features and a different approach to his usual style which was seen while he served his prison sentence. Highlights of this album included a collaboration with Drake on ‘R.I.C.O’ and joint works with partner Nicki Minaj and singer Chris Brown on the track ‘All Eyes On You’ which focused on media perception of his and Nicki’s relationship, mainly being critical of how they try to destroy his romance with Minaj.

August and September were quieter than previous months but still provided keen rap fans with high brow content and helped shine a light on rappers who would soon become global phenomenons. The largest of those being the release of Travi$ Scott’s ‘Rodeo’ album, something that artists from all over the world had been excited to listen to. It provided fans with a sound rarely heard before within rap music and appeared to be influenced almost exclusively by Kanye West’s Yeezus album, which showed brash arrogance and aggression released in heavy beats and what has been coined as ‘shouty rap’. A few gems from the album were found, including the massively successful record ‘Antidote’ which was hailed worldwide and charted in many countries. A huge step for a relatively small artist in the ever growing rap industry. Songs with Future and Kanye West allowed Scott to be more recognisable to the fan base of hip hop and gave him a stepping stone onto bigger and better things. I for one cannot wait for what he comes up with next. As well as Travi$ Scott, Future also released an album in this time period called ‘DS2’ and recieved mass population and success as a result. The album was recently ranked at number four in Rolling Stone’s Top 40 rap albums of 2015 thanks to his unique sound capturing the imaginations of any listener in his path. There are no doubts about it that his friendship with Drake has helped him along the way but now he has taken it on alone and reaped the benefits with huge hits such as ‘Where Ya At’ and ‘F*** Up Some Commas’. However, these two albums, although very successful and original, were completely pushed to one side by the return of a living legend in the rap game, Dr Dre. After becoming the first billionaire rap artist due to widespread success of his ‘Beats’ headphones, Dre decided to release a new album called ‘Compton’, 16 years after he released ‘2001’. The album as a whole was a typical Dr Dre project with a few standouts, but was never going to be an all time great. Many were just pleased to see Dr Dre back producing music after all his time away.

The final three months of the year were hectic, with late contenders for album of the year flooding in from unlikely sources. October started with Jay Rock releasing ‘90059’ which proved to be a strong album but was overshadowed by Drake’s triumphant return, this time with mixtape number two of 2015, ‘What A Time To Be Alive’, which he co-wrote with Future. This mixtape provided us all with one of the anthems of the year in ‘Jumpman’ which boasted a strong hook with high quality verses from both Drake and Future. As well as this, Drake released the newest single of his forthcoming album ‘Views From The 6’ and it turned out to be a radio smash hit. ‘Hotline Bling’ became a sensation due to its infectious beat and simple to follow lyrics. The lyrics did still provide a thought provoking meaning, allowing many to question who the lyrics were about, whether they involve Nicki Minaj or even Rihanna. What followed this project was another smash hit artist who broke the mainstream barrier and became a global star and he went by the name of Fetty Wap. Club anthems ‘Trap Queen’ and ‘679’ provided an alternative fun side to rap, showing an upbeat approach and giving people something to dance to. What made fetty was even more memorable was his appearance as he has overcome the adversity of losing an eye as a child to become a star, something he always dreamed of becoming. Just as people were beginning to think the year was over Pusha T decided he wanted his say on the matter with the critically acclaimed piece: ‘King Push: The Darkest Before The Dawn: The Prelude’. After being recently announced as the President of Kanye West’s music label ‘G.O.O.D Music’ Push created beat after beat on a mind blowing album that took everyone by surprise. The mellow approach of ‘M.P.A’ featuring West himself and A$AP Rocky provided another dimension to an already incredibly strong record.

So all in all 2015 may well have been the biggest year rap music has ever had, mainly due to the sheer quantity of artists who created strong albums and mixtapes all year round. I’m sure 2016 promises to be just as big, as we await album releases from Kanye West, Drake, Young Thug, Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Ferg and of course, the legendary return of 50 Cent.