Why Meek Mill is criminally underrated

So many times I thought it was the end of Meek Mill as a credible rapper. Famous incidents like his beef with hip-hop all-star Drake and MMG label-mate Wale have led to situations where I though he’d get blown out the water and forgotten about.

Yet time after time, Meek rises like a phoenix from the flames and comes through with stellar projects such as DC4 and Wins and Losses.

Controversial, confrontational and abrasive, Mill has continually thrown shots at people and been shot back at. His storied legal history has been well documented and his prison sentence would’ve held back countless artists. Not Meek Mill though.

The memes he was hit with following Drake’s Back to Back diss track could’ve put him in a position where no one would ever take him seriously again. Sure, he was a trending topic for a while as the “take this L” thing caught off and he looked out for the count. But his rebuttals were all criminally overlooked and I’d even argue his responses matched Back to Back or even bettered it.

Post-Drake beef life has been good for Meek, he seems to have recovered a lot of his reputation, settled down and hasn’t had a lawsuit for what feels like forever. His last two full length projects have been excellent and his lyrical prowess continues to be undeniable.

People like to shut down Meek as an ignorant rapper with gang-heavy bars but with a past like his, what would you expect? It would be hard to take him seriously if his music didn’t reflect the narrative of his life. Besides, he has his more poignant, introspective side too with hard-hitting songs such as Young Black America and Heavy Heart. He is seriously undervalued as a lyricist and his freestyle skills are up there with the elite few in the hip-hop world who can still go in off the top.

His uncomfortably public break-up with Nicki Minaj was awkward for everyone involved as she immediately took Drake’s side in what was seemingly a closed case until she attempted to reignite it on the Young Money reunion No Frauds. However, when asked about the lines (“‘Back to Back’? Me and Drizzy laughed at that”) in a radio interview, Meek was respectful and dodged saying anything too untoward about either Drake or Minaj. The Philadelphia-native seems to have matured a lot in the last few years and he appears to want no issues with rap heavyweights like he used to.

Throughout his career, Meek has been put on tracks with some of hip-hop’s big hitters like Jay-Z, Nas and even Jadakiss. Despite being placed beside some of rap’s undeniable legends, Mill has always held his own and in some cases (2012’s Maybach Curtains with Nas where he channeled The Notorious B.I.G. to deliver an excellent verse) topped the big names. This alone should put Meek on a pedestal with some of hip-hop music’s young kings.

Somehow though, it feels like he’s still a laughing stock. Twitter loves to laugh when Meek stands on metaphorical rakes – there has definitely been a few. But when you look at the actual problems Meek has run into, actually most of them have troubled a large percentage of the internet’s favourite artists.

A lot of guys who are frequently placed in the top-five current rappers conversation and the like can’t make full length projects like Meek can. Most of the artists placed above Meek can’t touch his freestyling ability. More to the point, Meek has been better than a lot of internet darlings on the same song as them.

For all these reasons (and I’m sure a lot more), you have to think that most of the rap community clown Meek unfairly. He’s an easy target, the jokes are there for the taking but you can’t discredit his artistry and ability to overcome obstacles that a lot of other rappers throughout history have succumbed to.

#BBAR #BoomBapisBack #BoomBapAndAcidRap

 

Twitter – @peter_tomlinson / @boombapacidrap

 

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/boombapandacidrap

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Classic Album Review: Kanye West

The College Dropout – Kanye West (Roc-a-Fella Records)

For me, this collection of tracks is probably in my personal top ten of all time. It was one of my early introductions to hip-hop and established my fascination with the mind and music of Kanye West.

In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, before anyone knew his name, Kanye West was paying his dues as a producer with a yearning to rap. A few years of persevering and steadily improving meant influential people in the industry began to perk up their ears and listen. One of the first guys to pay real attention goes by the name of Jay-Z. West’s groundbreaking style of speeding up soul samples became the signature sound of Roc-a-Fella Records. Kanye produced the majority of the tracks on Jay-Z’s 2001 album The Blueprint and was subsequently signed as an in-house producer for the fledgling record label in 2002. For many young producers, simply being acknowledged by Jay-Z, let alone producing full songs for him would be considering a success. Not for Mr. West. Not satisfied with just making beats, Kanye wanted to prove himself as a rapper. This album, The College Dropout, was West’s proof he could hang with the big names in hip-hop.

The first single, “Through the Wire” came out on February 3rd, exactly a week before the album’s release in 2004. It was inspired by Kanye’s near-fatal car crash in 2002 and was recorded with his jaw still broken and wired shut, thus rapping “through the wire.” The song opens with Kanye’s slurred voice proclaiming “they can’t stop me from rapping” before the beat interpolates a pitched-up version of Chaka Khan’s iconic 1985 single “Through the Fire”. The track is a mark of Kanye’s work ethic as much as it is a beautiful piece of music. In what Kanye called a “life or death situation”, his first instinct was not to let the hype surrounding him go to waste and against the advice of his doctors he produced and rapped this song.

It’s hard to discuss The College Dropout without explaining the skits of which there are six throughout the album. It opens with comedian DeRay Davis (doing a Bernie Mac impression) asking Kanye to play something for the kids who are graduating. It basically sets up the concept of the album which is Kanye addressing the academic system who told him he’d never be anything if he didn’t get a degree. It also, more literally, sets up the first track of The College Dropout: “We Don’t Care”. This is a glorious, celebratory song which hears Kanye talk to a class at their graduation, telling them to do what they have to do, regardless of what it makes people think of them. “We forced to sell crack, rap and get a job/ You gotta do something man your ass is grown” raps West over a simple drum beat and faultlessly chopped sample while a choir of children sing “We wasn’t supposed to make it past twenty five/ Jokes on you, we’re still alive”. The whole track is just a message to people who are doing less than glamourous things to get by – do what you have to do, the priority is survival.

‘Bernie Mac’ returns and cannot believe what he has just heard. He calls Kanye the n-word and tells Kanye he won’t be graduating and to get off of his campus. The backing track takes a dark turn which sets the mood for the rest of the album.

The next track sees Kanye at his evaluative best as he analyses his battle with consumerism. On a muted acoustic guitar-driven beat, Kanye teams with Syleena Johnson to create a hit that was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 47th Grammy Awards.

Next up, a then-unknown John Legend steps up to the plate with his version of a classic gospel hit, originally by Albert E. Brumley, called “I’ll Fly Away”. This sets up the next track, “Spaceship” which deals with the idea of escapism alongside GLC and Consequence.

The Chicagoan talks of the days when he used to work in The Gap as a greeter and how he felt he was treated like a “token blackie” and exploited to make the store look progressive. They criticised his workrate, to which Kanye responds that he made “five beats a day for three summers”.

This song is followed by one of Kanye’s most iconic tracks. On “Jesus Walks”, Yeezy gets spiritual and talks about problems with his relationship with God. He also discusses issues with organised religion and how they need Jesus. The impact of this song on rap music is criminally understated. It can definitely be crediting for bridging the gap between mainstream hip-hop and the church. In fact, the legendary DMC of Run-DMC said that he had stopped listening to contemporary rap music until he heard “Jesus Walks”.

“Never Let Me Down” is perhaps the most skippable song on the album but nonetheless has a place on “The College Dropout”. Jay-Z’s braggadocios verse about how many number one albums he has is irrelevant to the rest of the song which is about overcoming insurmountable odds put in place by racism.

In one of Kanye’s most ‘one of us’ moments on the album, he tells a story about using the internet to get with girls on “Get ‘Em High” from the second verse onwards. Admirably honest, Kanye comically uses the fact he knows Talib Kweli to hook up with a girl. On a totally separate note Kanye says “my flow is in pockets like wallets, I got the bounce like hydraulics” on this song, which to me is a magnificent line. Common also says “real rappers are hard to find, like a remote” on this song, which to me is a horrendous line.

Another funny skit introduces the next song: “The New Workout Plan”. In the skit, some women are having a conversation about losing weight. One of the women says that because of a workout plan she’s been doing recently she’s a “video ho-fessional”. “The New Workout Plan” suggests that the workout plan she’s been doing is The Kanye West Workout Plan. While the song really doesn’t fit conceptually with the rest of the album, it is still one of Kanye’s wackiest and most fun songs. It’s arrangement is a masterpiece as it seamlessly transitions from sound to sound and even includes a soul clap towards the end. In it, he basically sells his product to women, saying if you follow the instructions then you might be able to become a basketball wife or something of similar stature.

Another song ever so slightly short of the mark on this album is “Breathe In, Breathe Out”, featuring Ludacris, one of hip-hop’s biggest names in 2004. For some reason he is relegated to hook duty on here. Anyhow, we get a gem from Kanye when he calls himself the first “n**** with a Benz and a backpack”. Not exactly a bad song, but with a slightly dull bluesy trumpet beat, it definitely doesn’t live up to the rest of the album.

Next comes a song bookended by two skits called “School Spirit” in which West essentially washes his hands of the school experiences and tells his mother he’s going to “get on this TV”.  DeRay Davis returns for the skits to make fun of the higher education system and the subsequent unemployment that follows it. This carries on into the “Lil Jimmy Skit” which essentially does the same, but with a different character.

Guitars, piano, a full string arrangement and the Harlem Boys Choir all feature in “Two Words”, the symphonic peak of the album. Interesting verses come from Mos Def and Freeway, making this song a platform to combine, albeit briefly, the worlds of conscious rap and gangsta rap.

Another highlight of the “Dropout” is the heartfelt and soul-filled “Family Business” in which Kanye shares the relationships he has with his family members. He touches on several aspects of family life, some sombre, some happy. The side of Kanye which is so rarely exposed nowadays, his human side, is what made him so interesting initially and this song is about as ‘real life’ as a rap song can get. This is Kanye West at his reflective best.

In Jay-Z’s retirement movie “Fade to Black”, Kanye plays Jay a random beat of his. At the time, people would’ve presumed it was just another beat for “The Black Album”. Instead, it wrangled its way onto the tail end of Kanye’s debut album. And thank God! Instead, The Louis Vuitton Don’s fans are treated to a fifteen minute track in which Kanye excitedly tells part of his life story. Getting signed to Roc-a-Fella, moving around with his mother and even meeting Bun B at the Source Awards, nothing goes untouched here. It sort of ties everything he says elsewhere on “The College Dropout” into a pretty bow. Hip-hop artists like J Cole have utilised this type of outro since, and is yet another thing Kanye is entitled to take credit for creating.

Overall this album is still being talked about thirteen years on and will still be talked about forever. Before Kanye West was the king of controversy, he was just a kid from Chicago with a dream. “The College Dropout” is the realisation of that dream.

 

#BBAR

 

Twitter – @boombapacidrap

 

Facebook – www.facebook.com/boombapandacidrap

 

The Boom Bap and Acid Rap 2016 Year End Awards, Pt 4

LYRICIST OF THE YEAR:

THE SHORTLIST:

  • J COLE – FOLDIN CLOTHES
  • CHANCE THE RAPPER – ULTRALIGHT BEAM
  • DANNY BROWN – DOWNWARD SPIRAL
  • KENDRICK LAMAR – THAT PART (BLACK HIPPY REMIX)
  • JAY Z – I GOT THE KEYS
  • JAY ELECTRONICA – HOW GREAT

 

THE WINNER:

kendrick-lamar

Even if Kendrick Lamar didn’t release untitled unmastered or any of his guest verses apart from the one on the Black Hippy remix of THat Part, we’d probably still be looking at him as lyricist of the year. Lamar’s dexterity with words has been common knowledge since his arrival on the scene, however he surprised even his most ardent fans with the complex rhyme patterns and content in that verse. To put it context, in just 24 bars, he fits 87 rhymes and they all make sense. He addresses the fact that despite the fact he was a straight-A student, he was still denied higher education because he was a black kid from the ghetto, among many other topics, including a callback to a Jay Z deep-cut we all forgot about. In about 45 seconds, Kendrick did what many rappers struggle to do in a lifetime – be real.

 

SIDENOTE:

The worst lyricist of the year is nearly impossible to crown so I decided to choose the worst lyric of the year instead. It could’ve easily gone to Drake for “Got so many chains, they call me Chaining Tatum (they do, they do)”. For a start, no they don’t. And also, wow, that is hilariously lazy. However this highly prestigious award goes to Kanye West. On The Life of Pablo, there are a few lines that could’ve taken it. The infamous Go-Pro lyric, the open fridge line, the bleached a****** line…But the winner has to be from Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1, when the GOOD Music mogul said “Now if I f*** this model/And she just bleached her a******/And I get bleach on my T-shirt/I’mma feel like an a******”. Just an ignorant and stupid line from an otherwise good song.

The Boom Bap and Acid Rap 2016 Year End Awards

2016 has been an upside down year across the board. We’re talking losing greats such as Prince and Bowie and of course Phife Dawg. We’re talking police brutality happening throughout the world. We’re talking Brexit, numerous terrorist attacks and Trump as president for crying out loud.

Musically, however, it has been one of the most distinctive years in recent memory. We had new verses from OGs like Nas, Jay Z and Andre 3000 and albums from GOATs like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. On the other hand, emerging forces like Migos, 21 Savage and Lil Yachty had their best years to date. The stars we’re accustomed to came back looking strong too, with stellar projects from The Game, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Drake and so many more. It’s fair to say that the hip-hop of 2016 helped us to escape from the real world for a bit at times.

Here’s the first installation of the Boom Bap and Acid Rap 2016 Year End Awards!

VIDEO OF THE YEAR:

THE SHORTLIST:

  • YOUNG THUG (feat. QUAVO) – F CANCER
  • LIL YACHTY – 1NIGHT
  • FRENCH MONTANA (feat. NAS & KANYE WEST) – FIGURE IT OUT
  • SCHOOLBOY Q (feat. KANYE WEST) – THAT PART
  • 2 CHAINZ – WATCH OUT
  • FRENCH MONTANA (feat. DRAKE) – NO SHOPPING
  • SKEPTA – THE MAN

THE WINNER:

  • SCHOOLBOY Q (feat. KANYE WEST) – THAT PART

Despite stiff competition from two very different French Montana efforts, a hilarious 2 Chainz video and the characteristically weird Young Thug ‘F Cancer’ among others, Top Dawg’s resident gangster from Hoover Street wins this category by the skin of his grillz. The Colin Tilley-directed video features Q getting dropped off at Kanye’s house, before West stumbles around the house in one take, wildly rapping lines such as “walkin’, livin’ legend, man I feel like Kobe”. All the nominations are worth a watch but this video is just so trippy and captivating, it would be hard to give this award to anything else.

SIDENOTE:

The worst video of the year, if you’re interested, was comfortably Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Anderson .Paak and Idris Elba’s ‘Dance Off’, which made close to 9 million people cringe on YouTube this year. If you can sit through this, you can sit through anything. Don’t be surprised if this track pops up again…

A Year To Remember’s Greatest Albums: Ty Dolla $ign

Free TC – Ty Dolla $ign (Taylor Gang, Pu$haz Ink, Atlantic) – November 2015

 

What is most amazing to me about this album is that Ty Dolla $ign has developed that Nate Dogg knack of sounding vocally incredible while never giving the impression he is trying too hard. This album names 24 different acts as features and never feels like it isn’t Ty’s album, which is perfectly captured on the first track “LA, basically an exclamatory show of pride for Ty’s hometown of Los Angeles, which features Kendrick Lamar, Brandy and James Fauntleroy. While Kendrick delivers a verse in which he pays tribute to the LA Lakers and 2Pac, both synonymous with West Coast life, Brandy’s bit-part shows she still has it 24 years after her solo debut and Cocaine 80s’ Grammy-winning singer James Fauntleroy does what you’d expect him to.

One of my biggest gripes with so many albums of this kind is that, too often, the singles on it feel separate from the movement of the album, however Free TC manages to blend the tracks together to create a sonically-pleasing album through Ty’s unassumingly great voice and the production from some of the game’s best such as Hit-Boy, DJ Mustard and Metro Boomin among others.

Another highlight of the album is the collaboration with Babyface called “Solid” which, to me, is undoubtedly one of the year’s best songs. In order to demonstrate how impressive it is for Ty to have Babyface on his album, you have to go through his eleven Grammy award winning career and look at the fact he has written for and worked with people like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, the aforementioned Brandy and even Lil Wayne. The guitar-driven track is, in theory, pretty simple: wherever Ty Dolla $ign goes, women follow in their masses and he wants for very little, be it money, real friends or weed as he already has an abundance of said things. The actual song is infectiously catchy and since I heard it first, it has barely left my head.

The album grows naturally and feels very unforced. Ty and his team do a fantastic job of integrating A-List artists like Kanye West, R. Kelly and his label mate Wiz Khalifa without placing them on a pedestal and keeping Ty feeling like the main attraction the entire way through.

The hip-hop community looks forward to seeing if Ty Dolla $ign can keep his meteoric rise going. With a great feature on Kanye West’s “Real Friends” from The Life Of Pablo and two new songs out today, he is taking the right steps towards stardom.

2015: A Year to Remember

As I have been absent for over a week, I’ve decided this would be a good time to announce a new series of articles.

2015 was a fantastic year for hip-hop as a whole. We saw the emergence of Bryson Tiller and Goldlink. Future had his best year to date, as did Drake. We witnessed the seismic return of Dr. Dre with Compton. And Kendrick Lamar went from urban prodigy to the undisputed voice of the streets.

With so much exceptional music being released over the course of the year, it wouldn’t be right not to review any of it. For that reason, starting tonight, I hope to post at least one review per week for a good while.

Any criticisms, suggestions or requests can be submitted via Twitter @boombapacidrap. Any interaction is greatly appreciated.

#BBAR

How Hip-Hop Changed My Life: An Introduction

An Introduction to BBAR

 

After much deliberation, I have started a blog for a number of reasons, although mainly to relieve my Twitter followers from my constant outpour of nonsense and to put it into a more orderly form. I hope to update as regularly as possible, however with exams rapidly approaching, you may have to bear with me at times.

Basically, as soon as I heard hip-hop music, I fell in love with the upbeat feeling and the bright, in-your-face, cocky characters. Now, as I approach 18 years of age this year, I find myself getting hooked all over again with the braggadocios attitudes, unique culture and the lyricism in its rawest form. And for this reason, I feel a burning desire to publish my opinions and views so as to possibly inform, entertain and, almost definitely, let out some of my inner rap-nerd.

The first actual hip-hop album I owned was The Black Album by Jay-Z on CD. While I didn’t understand a lot of Jay’s metaphors or wordplay, something about his brash delivery connected with me. Upon hundreds of re-listens, it continues to be an album that shaped how I view music. For example, any hip-hop single that is hot at any given time, to me, is subconsciously compared to “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” or “99 Problems”, both perfect examples of producing a sound that not only captures the ‘pop’ audience’s ear but also manages to keep Jay-Z and hip-hop’s core fans satisfied.

From there I got to the murder-infused, dark bars of 50 Cent, to 2Pac who played a huge part in making it okay for a gangster to talk about his feelings and social issues, to the soul-sampling and self-evaluative Kanye West, to the paradoxical Brooklyn drawl of the Notorious B.I.G., all the way to the marijuana-loving thug that is Snoop Dogg. I was fascinated with all of these extremes and everything in between.

Fast forward to today and I feel, if possible, even more passionate about the art form that is rap. At this point in time, early February 2016, the hip-hop community is waiting with bated breath for Kanye West’s long-awaited follow up to his controversial 2013 album Yeezus, for Drake’s frantically anticipated Views from the 6 and for everything else that the world’s most multi-faceted and conflicting genre has to offer.

I, Peter Tomlinson, creator of Boom Bap and Acid Rap will keep you covered as far as possible.