Being a producer means a lot more than it used to in the past. It’s grown to be way more immersive and intricate, with the heavy hitters laying down complex soundscapes and telling stories with their shit, not just putting down foundations for rappers, but making things standout on their own. Little Rock’s Yuni Wa is a prime example of artistic evolution, with his latest project putting in a different space with every track. If feels like a classic movie marathon, captivating the listener and invoking a multitude of emotion with the instrumentation. Rather than be pigeonholed as just another rap producer, Yuni Ma made an attempting to stand on his own and grab you with his sound, and it was definitely the right decision. Listen below.
Anybody who’s seen AJ Bray knows. He’s full of life whenever he performs, commanding the audience and coming with an energy and presence that rivals that of some of the biggest artists. He separates himself, not defined by his hometown or his influences, but by his music alone. His latest project, aptly named Enigma, encompasses all of that energy to produce his most clear cut and impactful project yet.
Start to finish AJ Bray comes at you with a whole new clarity, and has set himself up to reach a new level. The opener The ReUp really sets the tone for what you’re gonna experience on the rest of the project, from a better mix, harder beats, and endless flows. Each track to track transition is smooth, with every song fitting together but standing on its own to be an interesting listen.
Song quality and structure are good, poignant and super catchy. AJs calling card is his quirky and effective lyrics, flexed in a way that really makes them stick with you. She Hates My Hoes should be all over nightclubs(wassup Club Rio), FrFr tells these boys the needa stop cappin out here, and Play Around is probably a personal for me on the project. As he continues through his career, AJ has yet to disappoint. We’re watching first hand someone who’s dedicated to his shit and refuses to ease up. True to his projects name, AJ Bray is a real life enigma.
Love him or hate him, X’s status and one of the game’s most versatile artists to date shouldn’t be debated. In the short span of his career, he’s played with post hardcore, trap, boombap, and alternative indie all at once, encapsulating the emotions of depression with his last offering 17 in multiple styles. His new project “?” (Question, question mark, unknown, idfk) is more stylistic variation, but with a more lighthearted energy. While 17 expressed every ounce of sadness and made you truly feel it, “?” takes a more varied approached, covering a range of topics and styles that are widely different yet somehow still work together.
From the jump X wants to make it apparent that you shouldn’t go into the album expecting one thing, using the opening track Introductions to tell the listener to open their mind to the alternative style. No two tracks are the same or would even make sense in context if this was an album from anyone else, but that’s kind of what makes it interesting. Like, who else would you expect songs like Infinity (888), a classic New York sounding boombap track featuring Joey Badass, and I don’t even speak spanish LOL, a latin pop hit, from at the same time? What I like about X is that he doesn’t seem afraid to explore different territories that other artists labelled under a specific genre like rap maybe wouldn’t, and does it authentically, having it feel more natural than awkward. Floor 555 is probably the closest he’s gotten to his original aggressive lo-fi low-quality sound since he blew up, while Pain = BESTFRIEND is an angry post hardcore track reminiscent of bands like Touché Amore, and Schizophrenia sounds a lot like Let The Bodies Hit The Floor.
The songwriting itself is haphazard throughout the album, but for the most part it’s all pretty good. Moonlight is sonically pleasing and catchy to listen to, but lacks in the substance department lyrically, and while $$$ is my favorite song on the project, it’s most because Matt OX’s hook is SO. DAMN. GOOD. X’s verse is ok, there’s nothing that really catches you like the hook does. (I really hope we get new Matt OX music soon, gahdamn that boy ate). Infinity shows off and unlikely combination that works very well together. Both Joey and X have great chemistry and super strong verses, Joey pulling out the heavy punchlines while X shows off multiple flows and insane syllable work, and this makes me think that the collab project they teased a couple weeks ago would be a lot better than I originally gave it credit for. My least favorite song on the album is probably smash, just because I didn’t really find it interesting to listen to, and I’m not a huge fan of PnB Rock cuz I consider him like a Dollar Tree version of Fetty Wap. I personally feel like the Indie stuff is where x shines, songs like Love Yourself interlude and Changes really hitting you where it hurts in terms of invoking emotion. He’s very good at writing and orchestrating songs that make you feel something, which is part of why 17 was so good, you could really feel what he was trying to convey. X has proven himself to be diverse in that he writing coincides with how he wants the song to feel. He can write a pop hit, a lyrical track, or some heavy shit whenever he really wants to.
In summary, the project is cool. There’s something for a very wide range of people to enjoy, which is different than what a lot of other people are doing right now. It’s a very diverse project that has sounds that maybe some who just knows his hip hop work may not be used to, but if you are open, or are versed in multiple genres like me, you’ll have a strong appreciation for what X is trying to do with it. He’s really pushing his versatility as appeal. Why only push one sound when you enjoy and are influenced by so much more? Listen to it below if you haven’t already.
The chemistry of artist and producer is arguably the most important thing in rap right now. Like, everybody wants to work with Metro, but not everybody can even fit with what he brings to the table (cough, Nav & Big Sean, cough). More than ever we just hear artists rapping over beats sent to them, sounding good to the ear but lacking true depth, and it’s honestly become rare to hear something that sounds truly organic. Sometimes though, if you look hard enough, you might find collaborations that fit like a glove.
Members of the Backyard Noize collective, Lona and A.K.A. are no strangers to working to together, yet this project is the first time everything has felt so tight knit. A.K.A.s vibrant, bouncy production style is in full force, matching Lona’s voice and delivery very well, whether he’s holding a melody or delivering a verse. He has a talent for remaining distinct with his sound while keeping each beat unique in their own right, with their own life and style. A.K.A. steals the show with his feature on LUV 4 U as well, his R&B pseudonym Alvynne showing serious melodic ability. Lona’s versatility is one of his best qualities. Being able to transition between rapping and singing with ease is a highlight, his singing standing out on Precious Tyme, and 1998 Freestyle showing he can rap with the best of them over a classic feeling bounce.
Neither of these guys ever disappoint. Serving as an appetizer until Lona’s 346 album drops, Moment’s Notice is the blend of artist and producer connection that the game needs more of. Listen below.
Austin’s D. Brooks gears up for the release of his debut project Unorthodox Rockstar, available on all platforms Oct. 22nd. Little is known about D. Brooks, other then his last 5 single releases have boomed on Soundcloud, improving with each release. Over the weekend he released the cover art for the album, and yesterday releases “6 for 6” produced by frequent contributor tredyboi1hunna. It’s a little darker then anything else we’ve heard from D so far, and Tredy matches the vibe with the bass heavy production. If this is a look into what the album will sound like, we’ll be hearing some very very dope new stuff. Stay tuned for any releases from D. Brooks before the album drops.
Let me just start by saying, I’ve been a fan of Uzi for a while now, at least a couple years. His feature on the DJ Carnage track WDYW is what grabbed my attention, his verse and hook being arguably the best part of that entire track. He brought a new energy and melodic style to hip hop that hadn’t really been seen before, influenced by his love of alt rock as a kid. Fast forward to now, with 3 projects under his belt and one of the biggest songs this year with XO Tour Life, and Uzi has blown up to be one of the biggest artists of the new generation, and LUV is Rage 2 one of my most anticipated prjoects. The first iteration had a wide variety in terms of style and flow, gave him his first shine, and each of his follow up projects showed a lot of growth and sound evolution. I had high hopes for what 2 could bring to the table, and while what we got was cool, it falls short of being the vibrant and definitive Uzi project it could have been.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good music of the album. Pretty Mami is a bop, 444+222 showcases Uzi’s super strong flow, Neon Guts delivers one of the best Pharrell features in a minute. From the jump you get hints of classic Uzi style, and a lot more metal influence than before without a darker theme that’s carried throughout the entire project. But digging deeper, LIR2 has very few strengths and a lot of weaknesses. A lot of the problems I have with the project come from what feels like a lack of creative control on Uzis part. In my opinion a few of the tracks feel sort of awkward, limited, and more “safe” than a Uzis previous projects, majority of the album feeling designed to appeal a mainstream audience. There’s only a handful of tracks I have in rotation, and while the album is good sonically, it for the most part lacks in terms of content and creativity. I get that being his first official album, the label would want something widely accessible, but throughout the album you can hear a lot of restriction on his creative process. Like, Scott and Ramona, off of Lil Uzi Vs. The World, feels more organic of a love song that something like The Way Life Goes, which comes off a bit generic and seems sort of like a plant. Dark Queen being his version of a mom love song is cool, but other than that, it, like most of the other tracks, has no real depth or substance.
I really wanted this be one of the best projects this year, and while the strength of Uzis fanbase pushed it to be the number one album in the country, musically it just didn’t live up to what I’ve come to expect from Uzi as an artist. While there’s a few issues, he does show out a couple times on the project. Neon Guts is one of the best tracks to come out this year, easily one of the best on the album. Pharrells classic four count into the best and most vibrant production amps you up, and both Skatebord P and Uzi glide over their verses. There’s nothing on the album that’s super bad, but only a select few songs have any real staying power. Lack of features isn’t really an issue, because all throughout his catalog Uzi has proven his ability to stand on his own in his music, but they do leave something to be desired. The Weeknd feature is just ok, doesn’t really add anything to the project. If anything, it would have been cool to see someone like Playboi Carti on the album, just because of how strong we’ve already seen his and Uzis chemistry on a track to be.
All in all, it was a nice introduction of Uzi for people who may have never really listened to his music, but it’s all really surface level material. I’m sure after seeing the sales he got off this project, he’ll be awarded more creative freedom, so maybe we’ll get more of the raw unfiltered Uzi I’ve grown to love. I’d give this one about a 6 out of 10.