NAV & Metro Boomin – Perfect Timing: Mixtape Revew

NAV is a Punjabi-Canadian rapper who is signed to The Weeknd’s ‘XO’ label and gained major recognition after his red Hot feature on Travis Scott’s ‘Beibs In The Trap’ track which was followed by his breakout eponymous mixtape. I really enjoyed that mixtape and felt like the future was bright for NAV so was excited to see what’s next. This is the anticipated follow-up, a collaborative project with megastar hip-hop producer Metro Boomin so surely this will be full of bangers? Let’s find out with my review of NAV & Metro Boomin’s ‘Perfect Timing’ mixtape.

I’ll warn you now, this project is a million miles away from his debut mixtape in terms of talent and authenticity, it sounds like horrendous throwaways basically all the way through here, from the lacklustre beats to the brainless lyricism. One thing I took from NAV’s debut tape was his ability to make catchy hooks and get songs stuck in your head, there’s only a couple of examples of that on display here and the rest just suck the life out of you. ‘Call Me’ and ‘Did You See NAV?’ being my only truly enjoyable NAV hooks while the others are just painfully boring and poor quality. ‘A$AP Ferg’ is saved by Lil Uzi Vert’s hook but even then NAV manages to put his frustrating stamp on it.

The features suggested to me that this album would be a great listen, with some of the hottest artists around right now being listed, including 21 Savage and Lil Uzi Vert as well as Playboi Carti. In reality what we got was plain evidence that NAV is so far off these guys on every level imaginable and it’s made so obvious from their involvements compared to his. 21 is as cold as ever on ‘Both Sides’ while Carti brings some attitude and hype to an otherwise snoozer of a track in ‘Minute’ which also features Offset of Migos.

Now I love Metro Boomin, he has been the brains behind some of my favourite hip-hop beats over the last few years, including Future’s ‘Mask Off’, Kodak Black’s ‘Tunnel Vision’ and Migos’ ‘Bad & Boujee’; but here he does himself no favours whatsoever. The production is sleepy and dull from beginning to end with only one or two passable moments, it’s really disappointing to hear from such a bright and exuberant producer.

Overall: 2/10

Let it be known that this was the tape which exposed NAV. His debut got a pass because that was clearly the best of his work, he put all his efforts into those songs and it came off for him. Here, there’s no hiding place, he had one of the best producers around making his beats and had the support from big featured artists to keep him relevant and afloat. Instead what we were given was an agonising listen with no character, no emotion and barely any talent. Lazy is the word that comes to mind here and I wouldn’t recommend this tape to anyone, I certainly won’t be rushing back to listen to it.

Top 10 The 1975 songs

The 1975 are one of the most polarising bands of modern times, mainly thanks to their throwback sound and the eccentric acts of their bizarre and often controversial frontman Matty Healy. Despite only releasing two studio albums a few EP’s, the band have developed a colossal fan base and are starting to back up the beliefs of their lead singer as one of the biggest bands around at this moment in time. They’re a true enigma and one which, for me at least, took much longer than usual to appreciate. With personal differences now put to one side, I can enjoy the music of the band and commend them for their risk taking in a fairly stagnated modern music market; this is The 1975’s top 10 songs.

10: Sex (from ‘The 1975)

Probably the most upbeat and pop-rock style song of any in the band’s discography, the brilliant guitar riff of Adam Hann is complimented with some great instrumentation around him and an equally solid vocal performance from Matty. This was one of the band’s breakout singles and the title of one of their EP’s but made it onto the debut album, it’s painfully obvious to see why. That guitar solo and drum build up is magical too.

9: The Sound (from ‘I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’)

A plunge into the new sound and style of the band, more electronics and synthetic risks being taken and this song is one of the examples of this. It’s a really funky track with an 80s vibe to it, much like the songs of Huey Lewis and The News, but in a good way. The second verse does sound like Matty has spent time searching through the dictionary for long words but somehow the onslaught of bulky words makes for pleasant listening. It’s also the song they finish their sets with and the one which had everyone jumping at Parklife, a real grower for me, much like a lot of their other tracks.

8: Girls (from ‘The 1975’)

One of, if not the most recognisable 1975 song is up next on the list, huge single ‘Girls’ broke through onto radio play and really threw the band into the public domain. It is a very radio friendly song that I will admit, but that doesn’t mean it is any less enjoyable or talented. Whether it’s the slick guitar licks or the blatant British vocal delivery of Matty, the song has a really nice 80s sound to it and it’s nearly impossible not to sway along to it or even tap your feet to the beat. Even now whenever this song comes on or the band play it live, the reception is first class.

7: Loving Someone (from ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’)

A coming together anthem of all walks of life, the band perform this song with the LGBTQ+ colours in their light show and it creates a beautiful atmosphere whether you’re listening to it at a live show or through headphones. I love the song’s progression and it’s atmospheric chorus mixed with a couple of spaced out verses. Matty describes this song as the real bonding of the togetherness and glory music can create between artists and fans. It’s become a really anthemic ballad that can be described as quintessential to the band’s musical avenue.

6: Settle Down (from ‘The 1975’)

As crazy as it may seem, this was the first song of The 1975 to grab my attention and that I actually enjoyed. I loved the funky slickness of the guitar riff and the emotion Matty put into the vocals, particularly in the chorus where he shouts his way through but it sounds great. The electronic keys which remain a constant throughout are fantastic too and give the band an edge and additional flavour which you very rarely find in bands these days. As I’ve delved deeper into the band and put personal differences aside I have realised that they do have better songs than this but it’s still a top tune and one which will hold an important part in my rollercoaster critique ride with The 1975.

5: Fallingforyou (from ‘IV EP’)

The most bizarre and unique song of them all on this list, this track comes from the band’s IV EP and is an electronic masterclass. As a general rule of thumb, I’ve never been too keen on the times The 1975 have tried to take too many instrumental risks but here it works an absolute treat. It also holds the iconic “I don’t wanna be your friend I wanna kiss your neck” line. The harmonies on the song’s chorus are very soft and pleasant on the ears and the whole aurora of the track just gives me a warm feelgood atmosphere. This is one which I would highly recommend to any who haven’t listened to the EP’s.

4: You (from ‘Sex EP’)

On the EP this song stands at 26 minutes long due to there being a hidden bonus track at the end, but this placement on the list comes solely from the first five minutes (ie the song itself). As the title suggests it is a direct address at a girl who isn’t trying hard enough for his love and is disrespecting him in ways such as “kissing all my friends”. The chorus is deliver e elegantly and soulfully as Matty repeats “it takes a bit more”; of course referring to the girl’s actions. My favourite part about this track alongside yet another fantastic Adam Hann riff is the bridge where Matty asks the girl “do you wanna dance” in plenty of harmonic lines and it’s just beautiful delivery. If you haven’t heard this one I would 100% recommend it, my first experience hearing it was just before Parklife when I was scrubbing up my knowledge for their headline set and I never looked back.

3: A Change Of Heart (from ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’)

In my review of the album I flagged this song up to be one of the standout tracks, that is still the case a year on. Yes the instrumental still sounds like something you’d hear on a reminiscent game of the Legend Of Zelda, but it’s something I really warmed to and found refreshing to hear. The harmonies are utilised on this song with effortless beauty and really help prop Marty’s vocals up in crucial moments of the track. The lyrics are very leftfield but they work a treat and, certainly not for the first time in their careers, break down the fourth wall and appear to touch the soul of the listener directly.

2: Somebody Else (from ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’)

Even in my days of pure unbridled hatred for the band, from the very first listen of their latest album it was this song that stood out as one which spoke to me and so many others about affection and the heartbreak of a troubled relationship. You can hear pain and sadness in the vocal delivery while the keys used in the instrumental are elegant and atmospheric, it was a real turning point for me on a personal level in terms of my respect for them as a musical group. A real coming of age for the band and hopefully a taste of what is to come from their third studio album.

1: Robbers (from ‘The 1975’)

Just staggering, simply staggering from start to finish. I love the way it blends from ‘Settle Down’ into this from the album, I love the progression of the narrative and thus the song itself. Instrumentally it is harmonic and beautiful while vocally it is gut-wrenching and soul-bearing from Matty Healy as he tells such a poignant tale. In the early days of my knowing of the band, I really didn’t expect them to have this sort of song in them, but now I feel foolish for doubting it because the talents they display on a song like this tell me all I need to know about them. Matty may be an insufferable pretentious oath at times, in fact 99% of the time, but musically he and the rest of the band are gifted.

 

Five reasons why Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond(e)’ album became his own mystical masterpiece

Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond(e)’ album isn’t even a year old, yet already it has knocked down a number of cultural and musical barriers, from soulful soundwaves to homosexual honesty and embrace. It sailed gloriously to the top of my albums of the year list for 2016 with the reason being quite painstakingly obvious. It is the work of a sheer genius and the fact it hasn’t been universally acknowledged as such truly saddens me. Even the title is a piece of art as he balances both the masculine and feminine spelling of the word ‘Blond(e)’ to show both sides (exactly like he says on new track ‘Chanel’). Here are five reasons as to why Frank Ocean hit a home run with his long-awaited ‘Channel Orange’ follow up and why ‘Blond(e) should be respected as one of the greatest albums this generation has seen.

 

1. It is already hailed as an LGBTQ+ celebration album.

We all remember that Tumblr post. In 2012 Frank Ocean announced to the world that as a 19 year old he fell in love with a man, sharing a summer of joy with his sweetheart. The open nature of Frank was embraced by all in the music community and he captured all of these emotions on ‘Blond(e)’. He has created an album in which people can feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, he has given everyone the confidence to live their own lives to their maximum potentials, irregardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

2. It is the ultimate barrier breaker of an album.

Sonically you’ll do well to find an album which captures the concept it intends to follow better than ‘Blond(e)’ does. The space-age tint of ‘Nikes’ and ‘Nights’ compliments the low-fi smoothness of ‘Godspeed’ and ‘Good Guy’ to create a masterpiece which is truly impossible to tie down to a specific genre. Taking a simple glance at the sampling and production credits of this album tells you all you need to know about the project’s diversity, with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Andre 3000 adding hip-hop flavours while David Bowie and even The Beatles has Frank dip his toes into the murky waters of British icons. Name another album which has the king of hip-hop and the kings of rock music on the same project. I’ll wait.

3. It is Frank’s coming of age and maturity.

Frank Ocean used Blond to display a huge step in his career, from the kooky innocence of Odd Future to the serious anticipation of a musical role model. When ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ was followed by ‘Channel Orange’ it appeared as though Frank would be a great R&B artist who spoke on love and passion, somewhat surface level emotions. What came from ‘Blond(e)’ was a triumphant rise through the ashes as Frank followed on from his previous projects with the raw emotion of love and then moved beyond that to greater issues. The likes of race, homosexuality, depression and cultural acceptance have been challenged here and helped it become an instant classic.

4. It ranks very highly in just about ever publication’s albums of the year list.

It may not come as a surprise to most, seeing as it was the most eagerly anticipated album of the year along with Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’, that ‘Blonde’ was a high scorer amongst many critics. It eventually ended up ranking in just about every top 10 imaginable, from NME (10th) to Rolling Stone (5th). The fact that such a wide variety of publications placed it in the top 10 suggests that no matter the genre of expertise, the raw talent of Frank Ocean shines through on this album and there’s no possible way you can deny it’s brilliance. I ranked it at number one and even that didn’t feel like enough gratification for the album’s mastery.

5. It places Frank upon the very pinnacle of artistry esteem.

This album showed every single one of us that Frank Ocean has a gift, it added a silk touch beauty to his discography and crystallised what we already knew about his sensual and stunning vocal delivery. Taking influence from the likes of Prince and Michael Jackson before him, Frank took it to the barebones of his musical ability; ditching the pop sounds of 2012’s ‘Channel Orange’ and instead laying himself bare with a skeletal stripped back project which is as mesmerising as it is haunting. The album appears sketchy and all over the place upon the surface, but it provides layers the more you listen to it, a well-drawn out affair of heartache and denial which will, in my opinion at least, weigh up alongside some of the all time great singer-songwriter projects. After all, Frank is the best of the lot in this generation when it comes to being a solo singer/songwriter, we now have the documents on record to prove it.

Ranking Drake’s Albums

Drake is the most recognisable rapper in the music industry right now. Even if you may not think he’s the best, there’s no denying that he is the king of the mainstream wave at the moment, dominating the charts with every single song he releases and selling a million copies on the opening week of his album dropping. He’s released eight projects in total and ordering them is really quite difficult given the variation in his voice between pop, R&B and outright hip-hop makes him difficult to pin down. One thing is certain, there’s obvious choices for the top spot and the stone dead worst; find out how I rank them here:

8: Views (Released 2016)

This project was such a drastic disappointment for me after all the hype that surrounded a Drake dominated music industry in the summer of 2016. Yes there are plenty of catchy radio-friendly songs on here but let’s face the facts; it is 20 songs long and of those 20, only 6 or 7 are genuinely enjoyable. To narrow that down even further, songs like Hotline Bling and One Dance are part of those 6 or 7 songs and they became old news by the time it was released because of how much they’d been played. Yes he sold a million copies in the first week but it’s by far and away his worst project; songs like Fire & Desire must never come into his mindset as acceptable ever again.

7: So Far Gone (Released 2008)

This his debut EP, Drake announced himself in a fairly solid way by stamping his style onto the songs immediately, letting people know exactly what they’d be in for throughout the duration of his career. Obviously this mixtape contained Best I Ever Had which became Drake’s breakout hit as well as a few solid tracks with Lil Wayne on the features, but really it didn’t hit the mark as a project. What followed was much more like it, however.

6: What A Time To Be Alive (Released 2015)

This collaborative mixtape with Atlanta rapper Future blew the charts up in the summer of 2015 thanks to the pair’s great chemistry on the tracks and the heavy production laid on mainly by god amongst men Metro Boomin. Jumpman is of course a standout hit but we also have tracks like Digital Dash (an absolute vibe) and Big Rings to enjoy from this. The project is certainly not without its faults however, with this project being the prime example and solid definition of a cherry picker album; meaning you have to dig through the mediocrity at times to find gems.

5: Thank Me Later (Released 2010)

Ah the debut album, the innocence of our little Aubrey on this project is bordering on adorable at times as he shows his insecurities and complexities as a man growing up around a lavish lifestyle, but it also shows him off to be a great artist too. We’ve got some more great features on this thing including Jay Z, Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj yet Drake more than holds his own against the field he’s put alongside. Fireworks and The Resistance are personal favourites of mine from here and they left me so excited to see the direction he chose to go in next after this album.

4: More Life (Released 2017)

I loved this project, it would genuinely baffle me if these were his ‘throwaways’ from Views because it is unquestionably better as a project in every single department. Summer vibes, emotional turmoil and hard beat drops, this “playlist” as he liked to call it was simply a collection of great songs. Passionfruit is everyone’s summer jam while his new affiliation with Giggs and Skepta has made for insane listening. The features are top draw on this thing and even the minor details of samples is brushed up very well to give it a very modern sound. Shoutout to whoever picked the track listing for nearly making me cry with Sampha on 4422 to then making me simultaneously milly rock for about 4 songs after that (Gyalchester, Skepta Interlude, Portland, Sacrifices).

3: Nothing Was The Same (Released 2013)

This was the first Drake album I listened to on it’s release day, I had heard the singles and starting to hear his name get mentioned quite a lot so felt a level of intrigue to check his music out. This album did not disappoint and had a fantastic balance of smooth ballads and rich production on hard hip-hop tracks. It contains some of Drake’s best vocal performances in terms of flow and rap delivery, especially on songs like From Time and Tuscan Leather. The production is amazing from start to finish, with Pound Cake’s beat being one of the best I’ve heard this decade. It isn’t perfect, there’s still an air of cliché and cheesiness to this project but it’s very very good.

2: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (Released 2015)

In terms of our rapping and being a hip-hop artist, this is Drake at his very best. His delivery is ice cold and he’s holding no punches with his bars, whether it’s making Tyga look like a massive loser on 6pm In New York, or schooling his featured artists on a regular occasion. It was technically released as a mixtape, but the success it garnered meant that Drake just couldn’t keep it as that so hard copies were released and it soared to the top of the charts, becoming his fourth successive platinum project. The 6 God lived up to his name in gigantic abundance on this release and he proved exactly why he’s at the top of the rap game. He’s not running through the 6 with his woes anymore that is for certain.

1: Take Care (Released 2011)

Is this really a surprise to anyone? In my opinion it is the only truly classic album Drake has released, it’ll stand the test of time and be remembered as one of the most important rap albums of this century simply because it got the ball rolling for this conscious rap vibe that has become a major talking point in the modern music industry. There’s a grand total of zero weaknesses about this album as Drake strikes the literal perfect balance between being in his feelings and dominating the mic as an MC. He follows Marvins Room with Buried Alive Interlude and Underground Kings, if that doesn’t sum up his variation then I don’t know what does. I don’t think Drake has got close to this album yet and I struggle to believe he ever will, absolute peak Drizzy.

Hip-Hop Power Rankings: May-June

It’s time for another edition of the hip hop power rankings, a series in which I analyse the genre’s biggest trending stars and rank them into a top 10. Whether it is how busy they’re keeping, how relevant their music remains or the chart positions they generate in these months, it’s safe to say that May and June has seen plenty of massive names soaring to the top of popular culture. Last edition saw Kendrick and Drake ruling the roost thanks to their album releases, but this time will we see a new king of the sales?

10: Vince Staples

An artist who in all honesty should be far higher in this list in terms of invention and artistry given the brilliance of his June release ‘Big Fish Theory’ which combines deep house with ice cold rap bars. The reason he doesn’t place higher is simply because his hits aren’t making it onto the mainstream ladder like the other artists featured here in this top 10, with that being said, he’s still squeezing out over 4 million monthly Spotify listeners and has the game’s attention after dropping an album of the year candidate which should go down as a real genre pusher.

9: Kendrick Lamar

Hip-hop’s rhyme animal himself has just begun embarking on his North American ‘DAMN.’ tour and the buzz for his latest album is still huge, with hit single ‘HUMBLE.’ remaining a chart stalwart throughout these summer months. It has to be said that his demand has slightly dipped through the months of May and June but even then he’s found room to jump on a killer remix of Future’s ‘Mask Off’ smash hit and shock us all with a fire verse on Vince Staples’ ‘Yeah Right’. He’s still talked about and will remain in this list for quite some time I feel given the potential for more top draw guest features on the horizon.

8: Drake

Drizzy Drake doesn’t have an off button, he’s constantly working and dropping music for his fans to enjoy. His long lasting relationship with DJ Khaled continued in June with the release of ‘To The Max’, a song which did fairly well commercially but couldn’t rub shoulders with the likes of ‘I’m The One’ and ‘Wild Thoughts’. He also released ‘Signs’ which is a single coinciding with the new Louis Vuitton releases so he is certainly in good company even beyond the musical sphere. Basically Drake won’t be quick to leave the top region of popular rap artists simply because of his colossal work rate and the fluency of his styles to make popular tracks.

7: Lil Yachty

The Boat’s album ‘Teenage Emotions’ dropped in May and even though it did only reach number four on the billboard charts, it still generated plenty of buzz and more than enough to warrant a spot on this list. He’s a cultural phenomenon at the moment even if his music has been deemed underwhelming by many; the brand of Lil Yachty continues to soar. He also joined Migos on a Steve Aoki single and his collab with Kyle on ‘iSpy’ continues to dominate nightclubs and radio stations across the globe.

6: French Montana

Personal differences aside, French Montana had a monster couple of months solely off one track. His gigantic hit with Swae Lee ‘Unforgettable’ can be heard everywhere at the moment and has to be my go to anthem right now, he has completely smashed the charts and with more to come i.e. an album, you sense that this won’t be the last time his name is on this list; especially considering the feature list he boasts on it.

5: 2 Chainz

Thanks to 2 Chainz’s new album, we now know that ‘Pretty Girls Like Trap Music’ and he also confirmed what we already knew; 2 Chainz is a bonafide mainstream rap bonanza who can still murder beats with witticisms in 2017. His feature list was incredible and he held his own against the majority of rap’s biggest stars so for anyone to doubt him at the moment is sheer madness.

4: Young Thug

Young Thug is a hip-hop megastar now whether you like it or not. He’s done all of this work without needing to release a studio album yet and continues to wow audiences with his charismatic flows and unique persona on tracks. This has never been more true on his latest mixtape ‘Beautiful Thugger Girls’ where he tries his hand at acoustic cuts with Trap influences. He is another of the artists to be on Khaled’s ‘Grateful’ album as well as Calvin Harris’ ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1’ and he does a great job on both. His value continues to rise so that once this debut album comes out it’ll absolutely fly. Easy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls for life.

3: Future

Is it really a popular rap artist list without Future making an appearance somewhere on it? The Atlanta mumble rapper is somewhat of a legend of the commercial hip-hop scene already and these past few months have been no exception to this. His remix of Post Malone’s big hit ‘Congratulations’ is a triumph and Kendrick remixing his hit ‘Mask Off’ has pushed the original back up the charts.

2: Travis Scott

His work ethic is undeniable and his ability to create a summer hit has been demonstrated wildly throughout these past few months. His name and status have risen massively over the course of May and June thanks to collaborations with Calvin Harris, Major Lazer and DJ Khaled, all of which have been greatly received as some of the biggest hits of this summer. He’s also been a feature on the latest 2 Chainz album where he stole the show on ‘4AM’, while singles of his own including ‘Butterfly Effect’ have hit the radio and been big successes on his endless show dates. Don’t be surprised to see a number one spot very soon for La Flame.

1: Quavo

Is it really a chart smash hit if Migos’ hook king isn’t featured on it? One Direction’s Liam Payne came to Quavo for his first single ‘Strip That Down’ while DJ Khaled called upon him for some fire on a couple of tracks from his most recent album ‘Grateful’. He’s also played a great part on projects from 2 Chainz and Halsey while being a killer on Major Lazer’s ‘Know No Better’ track as well as A$AP Mob’s most recent single ‘RAF’. He’s just the mainstream king right now and he’s living the life he always dreamed of.

Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1: Album review

Calvin Harris a superstar DJ hailing from Dumfries in Scotland but he’s moved on from that small town lifestyle and is now living it up in sunny Los Angeles. The atmosphere he creates in this new album here is exactly that, LA funk tracks and summer anthems. His adamance to move on from the ever popular EDM sound is admirable and you get the sense he is now doing exactly what he wants to do. With that being said, does this star studded album with an embarrassment of riches in the feature department live up to the hype and will it be the soundtrack of your summer? Let’s find out with this review of ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1’.

The production is magnificent on this thing, every single track has glitz and glamour but also carries a chilled out vibe to it which can allow it to be played in family BBQs as well as banging club nights. Right from the off Calvin treats us to toe tappers and invention with the lead single ‘Slide’ in which the glory of the best is met with a stunning performance from this generation’s mastermind Frank Ocean. The standout beats on this project definitely come from the staggers and pulsators in his synthesisers, particularly on ‘Rollin’ and ‘Prayers Up’ and it is something I really hope Calvin continues to do in his future projects.

The features are colossal, with most of the biggest names in hip-hop jumping onto this album. 95% of the performances on here are thoroughly enjoyable too, whether it be the most unexpected surprises from the likes of Young Thug and Future, who shouldn’t fit the kind of instrumentals they’re put on, or the slick styles of Pharell Williams and Khalid who do themselves tremendous justice on their given beats. The star of the album has to be a toss-up between ScHoolboy Q and Travis Scott though, on their respective tracks ‘Cash Out’ and ‘Prayers Up’ as they set fire to some incredible instrumentals and give everyone summer anthems to enjoy. It’s not all perfect, however, as the verses from Lil Yachty and Nicki Minaj are somewhat underwhelming given the buzz around them as artists. I’ll forgive them both because of how great that Snoop Dogg song was, though.

Overall: 8.5/10
Best three songs: Cash Out, Slide, Prayers Up
Worst three songs: Skrt On Me, Faking It, Hard To Love

This album is pure enjoyment from start to finish, creating exactly what the title suggests, funky anthems for us all to indulge into and vibe out to all summer long. Thank you so much Calvin for moving away from this brainless EDM sound and being daring enough to go down your own avenue, creating music that you want to make rather than what the label wants you to make. Calvin Harris has to be the number one DJ on the planet now after this, sorry Khaled it’s just facts bro.