First Take: Raekwon- ‘Fly International Luxurious Art’

Raekwon is the master of criminology raps. His overcharged mafioso persona has been front and center since the release of the iconic purple tape, and hasn’t slowed even as the MC himself gets on in years. To say I haven’t been anticipating Fly International Luxurious Art for a minute would be a complete lie. I get amped up for each and every Wu solo release like it’s 1997 all over again.

There’s not a single new twist or turn to report throughout F.I.L.A. Rae delivers the gritty bars we’ve come to expect, while allowing us a glimpse into the jet setting other side of his seemingly glorious life. He’s made a career of weaving elaborate street dreams before our eyes; ones where the bad guy always ends up on top. A ghetto Tony Montana, a master of both grams and Grammys. Only this time out it seems Rae’s focused on wooing a younger crowd, especially on the sugary “All About You” featuring Estelle.

F.I.L.A’s highlights are captured in the features. French Montana and Busta Rhymes’ appearances are golden, and ASAP Rocky’s verse on “I Got Money” cements his place as one of NYC’s brightest new stars. Don’t mistake Rae’s open invites as signs of weakness. He’s earned the right to bring ’em out.

When it’s all said and done, even Raekwon’s lackluster releases trump the mindless turn up churned out online by the minute. F.I.L.A. isn’t changing the game, but it doesn’t have to. Lex Diamonds still shining.


New Music- Ratking: 700-Fill

Whether or not the fellas in Ratking are from “the triple down goose era” as they claim is beside the point. 700- Fill is their new EP that picks up where their tremendous debut, So It Goes, left off. Ratking’s sound is a gritty, audio smear of NYC in 2015 that bursts into new territory with each release without lifting the one foot firmly planted in the murky history of the East Coast.

The EP kicks off with the powerful “American Gods”, followed by “Arnold Palmer”, allowing Wiki to elevate his status as one of the best young MC’s in New York City. 700-FIll is dark and jazzy, blurring by like street lights through a cab window at 70 mph on the West Side Highway. It’s dazzlingly cool and stylistically complex.

Ratking isn’t set on making entirely accessible music, a factor that may keep their name just south of the mainstream. Yet, that also makes them most relevant. With 700-Fill, Ratking continues making music which wholeheartedly represents the sound of young New York, one disjointed opus at a time.

Film Review: Nightcrawler

By Dandry Fields

Nightcrawler is a smart, sleek, and at times funny take on front line “journalism”.  Jake Gyllenhaal does it once again and reminds everyone why he is one of the best actors of our generation.

Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, an oddball sociopath who has a knack for getting the perfect camera shot no matter the cost. Bloom is a perfect mix of De Niro’s Travis Bickle and Ryan Gosling’s Driver. As the movie progresses you see the insomnia and the anger, which made both of those characters memorable, on full display in Gyllehaal’s every stare and sneer.

The movie follows Bloom on an accident chasing, law bending dogfight to be the best stringer L.A. has ever seen.  Gyllenhaal continues to excel at his craft, one release at a time. If you still aren’t a believer, consider his past work…Donnie Darko, Jarhead, End Of Watch and Prisoners.

If you’re looking for a film that will make you chuckle and at times question your morals, take Nightcrawler for a spin. This is Jake Gyllenhaal at his creepiest and quite possibly his best.

First Take: Yelawolf -Love Story

Yelawolf has been crafting and perfecting Love Story, his Shady Records sophomore release since 2011’s Radioactive. Admittedly, his debut played like a helter skelter bag of verses tossed at various producers with varied results. There were a few gems, a handful of forgettable filler, and a legendary collaboration between Yela, Gangsta Boo, and Eminem. One listen to this new record proves there’s nothing standing in his way moving through 2015.

Yelawolf is poised and calculated, allowing for his true artistic intentions to shine on Love Story. The record is entirely authentic, bridging the gap between the Alabama MC’s love for hip hop and country rock and soul. Whether singing or rapping, Yelawolf has never been more focused as he is on these 18 tracks.

Sequenced to perfection, igniting a true concept feel, Love Story brings Yelawolf’s passion for writing and creating to life. The record showcases his careful eye for power and grace. He flexes full creative control throughout wedging haunting country blues like “Devil In My Veins” alongside flame throwers “Outer Space” and “Heart Break”. The latter, an ode to gold digging mothers that stings whether or not the shoe fits.

“American You” is the real gem of this collection; a song written to rebuke the ‘Born in the USA’ notion of middle America living. It’s a call to arms for the oddballs to unite under Old Glory, regardless of your tattoo collection or wages earned.

Yelawolf’s brand is affectionately dubbed ‘Slumerican‘, and Love Story is certainly served up for true fans to devour. It’s nothing like any release of this year, and will only serve as a vehicle for Yela to expand his sound, fan base and mind like the Outkasts and Kid Rocks before him.

Thugga’s World: Why ‘Barter 6’ Matters

Young Thug decided to call his newest project Carter 6, and ignited an internet controversy. Weezy fans rallied behind their boy, Thug fans saw it as a tribute to his idol. I sat back and reveled in the fact that we care so much about insignificant shit. Instagram fronting ensued, weapons were brandished- threats, threats, threats.  Wisely, Thugga changed the title to Barter 6, avoiding legal trouble, and here we are.

Young Thug is a polarizing man. His sing-song writing approach seems like a genuine tribute to supposed idol Lil Wayne. His persona is larger than life, and dare I say larger than Weezy altogether. There’s no rhyme of reason to his appeal. Thugga is awkward looking and sounding, his cadence a mixture of breathy whimpering and pitchy punchlines. He wears what he wants, smokes what he wants, and deflects the rumors of his homosexuality by relentelessly reminding us how easily he’d “fuck your girl”.

Personality aside, his music is urgent. He captures a mood each and every time in the studio. It’s the sound of reckless, young, rich America. More than blunts and lean, more than bitches and money, Young Thug is the voice of a generation. Total turn up, but not without brains. It’s a calculated approach which blurs the lines of art and social media, somehow culminating in meaningful noise.

Barter 6 may be a mixtape leading to a proper 2015 release, but it needs to be kept in mind amidst the years best releases. Grab the project here.

Album Review: Bodega Bamz- Sidewalk Exec

Plenty of times the last few years I’ve longed for a rapper passionate about storytelling. I love punchlines, brags, money, cash, hoes etc. But the art of storytelling felt lost amidst a foul sea of mindless turn up. Then this “new New York” ship sailed in, rather hilariously though, since New York has never gone anywhere in terms of sonic importance. Yet out of the blue we were blindsided by this new crop of NY artists more concerned with quality and flash.

Tucked away nicely somewhere in Spanish Harlem is Bodega Bamz. He made waves around these parts with 2013’s Strictly For My P.A.P.I.Z. On that tape he laces the menacing “Glorious” (produced expertly by V-Don) with the phrase, “I’m from the east, who am I to fuck tradition up?” He believes in his roots, and is figuring out the fickle tightrope walk of the hip hop game by flipping it the bird and stepping hard.

Sidewalk Exec is a wild east coast opera, full of quotable bars and memorable moments. Bamz pays careful attention to the violence of his past complete with a studio twist, to remind us how much showmanship it takes to make it. There’s nothing fake here, but Bamz has mastered the larger than life persona that’s sorely lacking (sorry Rozay,it’s just unbearable) in today’s mainstream market.

Nothing on Sidewalk Exec is tailor made for the radio and simulatneously nothing is out of reach. V-Don’s exclusive production is haunting enough to harken us back to that moment you first heard “Shook Ones”. It’s almost too real, but flashy enough to easily recognize the bravado. “Raw Deal” is the song I’ve been looking for since Biggie fucked that chick who dated a New York Knick. It’s a blast. Woopty Woop Blahzay Blah.

Yelawolf- Best Friend feat. Eminem

Yelawolf’s highly anticipated Love Story is set for an April 21st release. He’s been dropping insane singles for months, cementing the notion of walking a line entirely of his design. There’s not much room for argument here. Love Story has one feature, and it’s creepy old Uncle Eminem on “Best Friend”. Em’s not in show stealing form here regardless of their night and day flows. Rather than going for the neck, the two trade verses with a haunted kinship that brings Yela’s vision to life. Call me crazy, but Love Story is going to change things for this Alabama MC.

The pre-order is up at iTunes and through Shady Records. Go spend a few dollars on quality art.