Don't listen to the hip hop-only critics about this album. I mean, if you don't personally mess with country music at all, then listen to them, but if you have an appreciation for it this album is most definitely worth your time. Yela mostly foregoes rapping on this album in favor of a country croon on songs like "American You" and "Best Friend" which also happens to feature a great verse from his mentor Eminem, while the overarching theme of the album drives home the message: love your loved ones while they're still here.
FINAL SCORE: 4.0/5.0
HIGHLIGHTS: American You, Devil In My Veins, Have a Great Flight
SUNNY WINTER x WREKONIZE & HIPPIE SABOTAGE
Wrekonize of ¡Mayday! links with Hippie Sabotage to produce this surprise EP which features more of what Wrekonize does best: drop thoughtful lyrics with effortlessly intricate flows and smooth hooks. Not a moment is wasted in these five songs, as Wrekonize tackles personal demons, brags about his bars, and lashes out at hating critics. This should not be overlooked and hey, it's free--no excuses.
FINAL SCORE: 4.5/5.0
HIGHLIGHT: Shadows In the Dark 2015 (Picture This)
TETSUO & YOUTH x LUPE FIASCO
Lupe Fiasco finally makes that return to form he's been promising for awhile with Tetsuo & Youth, the follow-up to the very disappointing Food & Liquor 2 and Lasers. Lupe more-or-less eschews his previous grabs for commercial appeal with the nearly 9-minute marathon rap "Mural" (not the last time on this label that a song runs near or past the 9-minute mark, either) and criticizes the police state on "Prisoner 1 & 2" which also features his poet sister, Ayesha Jaco. Production from the likes of S1 and DJ Dahi keep the music tight while Lupe drops some of the best rhymes he's penned in years.
FINAL SCORE: 4.0/5.0
HIGHLIGHTS: Mural, Prisoner 1 & 2 (feat. Ayesha Jaco), They.Resurrect.Over.New (feat. Ab-Soul and Troi)
SLOW MOTION VOLUME ONE x JARREN BENTON
Jarren Benton has arguably become Funk Volume's torch-bearer in the last few years, gaining cosigns from all corners of the rap industry, from R.A. the Rugged Man to 2 Chainz and back again. With this EP, he does a good job demonstrating how deserved the praise is with his sharp flows and sharper wit. However, even at only 8 songs, the momentum isn't sustained throughout, and it could've been trimmed of a few tracks. Most of the collaborations don't add much to the track either, notably excepting ¡Mayday! and Jon Connor's guest verses and the excellent hook Hopsin adds to "Killin' My Soul," easily the project's highlight.
FINAL SCORE: 3.5/5.0
HIGHLIGHTS: Atychiphobia (feat. ¡Mayday!), Killin' My Soul (feat. Hopsin and Jon Connor)
In the midst of a highly publicized feud with long-time label boss and surrogate father Birdman, Lil Wayne pours his heart and soul into an introspective album--nah, just kidding, this is thoroughly terrible. I listened all the way through, because even though Wayne has been rubbish for nearly a decade now, he still manages to sneak a gem or two onto each project, but not here. There is not one redeeming quality to this album, as Wayne's subject matter is staler than ever, and the few attempts he makes to get topical (police brutality, label politics, etc.) fall hopelessly flat. Over an hour of my life just gone to waste, and I didn't even get paid for it...and believe me, sitting through this entire project is enough of a chore to qualify as work. When you find yourself eagerly anticipating a Mack Maine verse, when Drake doing his tough guy act feels like finding an oasis in a musical desert, when 2 Chainz grandsons you on your own track, you know things are bleak. Even on the rare occasions when the lyrics aren't wack, the delivery is utterly atrocious, squeaky and unbearable. Don't listen to this. Ever.
FINAL SCORE: 0.0/5.0
HIGHLIGHTS: The times Lil Wayne lets someone else rap.
I'll be back for more soon. BTW: RIP Chinx.