Thoughts on J. Cole’s Claim to the Rap Throne

Jermaine Cole is, undoubtedly, one of the best artists of the day. However, his work is still ahead of him when it comes to carving his niche amongst names like Biggie, 2Pac, Jay Z, Eminem, Andre 3000, and more.

Yesterday, J. Cole set twitter and the music world ablaze with the release of his first single of 2019, “Middle Child.” Over a bass-heavy beat and between catchy hooks, Cole unloaded on a few topics, focusing mainly on his position in today’s hip-hop scene. While the entire track was extremely well written, the following verse in particular seems to have set off an all too familiar conversation across the hip-hop community:

“To the OGs, I’m thankin’ you now, was watchin’ you when you was pavin’ the ground. I copied your cadence, I mirrored your style. I studied the greats, I’m the greatest right now.” The question we’re left to ponder, of course, is simple. Is he right? Is J. Cole the top talent in the industry in 2019? He’s certainly attempted to lay claim to the title more than a few times over the years, but having just put his fifth platinum album under his belt with 2018’s KOD, the question seems increasingly persistent.

Firstly, it’s worth looking at Cole’s case. As I mentioned, 2018 saw the release of his fifth consecutive platinum album, which is no small feat. Only 10 artists in rap history have more than five platinum albums in a row and, of the ten, only Kanye West could still be considered at his peak. Additionally, though it’s become something of a meme in recent years, J. Cole’s last three albums have accomplished their certifications without a single feature.

On top of sales, he’s shown a remarkable amount of talent over his main run. Each of his verses is well crafted and his flow is slowly becoming iconic. Not only have his albums been impressive, but his non-album singles have been even better. “High for Hours,” is one of the best hip-hop tracks of the decade, “Everybody Dies,” was a perfect response to the rise of the soundcloud/mumble rap in recent years, and “False Prophets,” was a measured and thoughtful response to the outrages actions of Kanye West. It’s in these responses and commentary where we find him at his best. While his albums can often fall short, J. Cole drops better singles than anyone in the game.

He definitely has a strong case and it just keeps getting stronger with tracks like “Middle Child,” but on the other hand, the rap game is in an impressive place right now. When it comes to lyrical ability, artists like Aesop Rock and Open Mike Eagle are doing fantastic work, and of course, legends like MF Doom, Jay Z, and Killer Mike are still creating some of their best music, but Cole still stands unique among these artists in many respects certainly above them in notoriety. Unfortunately for Jermaine, there is still one artist who exceeds him in nearly every aspect, and that man is Kendrick Lamar.

Kendrick’s major label run at Top Dawg covers Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, one of the best breakout albums of all time, To Pimp A Butterfly, arguably one of, if not the best album in hip-hop history, and DAMN. which was one of the best albums of 2017. Of course the question is subjective, but for my money, Kendrick Lamar has long surpassed any artist in today’s scene and begun jockeying for position among the all-time greats.

Where Cole writes excellent verses and singles, Kendrick puts together full albums of breathtaking scale and sound, each wildly different than the one before. Where Cole’s flow is recognizable and strong, Kendrick plays multiple characters, each with unique flows, tones, and lyrical tendencies, characters which develop across his discography to act as metaphorical stand ins for a multitude of larger ideas. Where Jermaine is beginning to settle into his sonic identity, Kendrick’s instrumentals vary wildly in each record from a masterclass in West Coast boom-bap to a jazz epic helmed by Kamasi Washington to some of the best trap beats in the genre.

Coming into 2019, we’re all enjoying a fantastic era of rap music which will continue to draw comparisons to the golden age of the 1990’s and Jermaine Cole is, undoubtedly, one of the best artists of the day. However, his work is still ahead of him when it comes to carving his niche amongst names like Biggie, 2Pac, Jay Z, Eminem, Andre 3000, and more. On the other hand, Kendrick Lamar continues to be one of the best artists in the entire modern music industry with one album after another telling remarkable stories with unparalleled lyricism and he is, without a doubt, the best rapper in the game today.

HEAR MIDDLE CHILD: https://open.spotify.com/album/3XzSOIE6zGLliuqsVGLmUc

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Earl Sweatshirt Drops Unique and Enjoyable 3rd Album

Some Rap Songs will likely be adored by true fans, but may not connect with the uninitiated.

     Earl Sweatshirt is a rapper and producer from Los Angeles, California. He’s best known as a member of the rap super group, Odd Future along with Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean among others. While his fellow OF members have reached much success in recent years and stepped out from the shadow of the group, Sweatshirt has struck up more of an underground path to fame. After a few self-released mixtapes, he made his major label debut on Columbia in 2013 with Doris. The album was mildly successful, in fact more so than it’s 2015 follow up, I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside. The latter, however, became a massive cult hit, slowly building a small but dedicated fan base.

   His flow is heavily inspired by his Odd Future counterparts, particularly Tyler the Creator, who’s early work is remarkably similar to that of Sweatshirt. The fanbase, though, was far more drawn to his lyricism, which is quite impressive. He writes with brutal cynicism and focusses heavily on dark topics. His storytelling is excellent and, especially on his second record, he has an excellent ability to paint a picture. After seeing the strange cover and title for Strange Rap Songs, I knew I was in for a unique experience, and Earl didn’t disappoint.

   The first thing you’ll notice about this record is extremely short runtimes and long tracklist. The longest and perhaps best tracks the album are the opener, “Shattered Dreams,” and “The Mint,” each clocking in under three minutes. These actually feel like complete ideas, though they’re essentially just long verses, as Earl lets the beats shine a bit longer and the latter features a fantastic soundbite. The rest of the album is somewhat woven together.

   Because of the quick changes, we’re given one fantastic beat after another. The closer, “Riot!” is completely instrumental and utilizes a catchy, well played horn passage near the end while tracks like “The Bends,” and “Veins,” are built around well cut vocal samples which are used to set tone as well as rhythm. Earl shows versatility around every turn as the music simply refuses to sit still for more than a moment.

   His flow is also quite listenable. “December 24,” and “Cold Summers,” feature the kind of classic, Earl Sweatshirt flow we know and love, as do “Red Water,” and “Onmyway!” Here, he’s unrelenting and with the slight tinge of violence and intensity. On the other hand, tracks like “Nowhere2go,” and “Eclipse,” display a sleeper, more laid back form of the same sound.

   Overall, the record shows a reckless disregard for tradition. “Loosie,” and “Azucar,” find Earl barely clinging to the beat of minimalistic instrumentation with a bizarre transition between the two. Furthermore, several tracks mix the beats louder than Earl’s vocals and his vocal constantly fades between vocal effects.

   Not every risk pays off though. “Playing Possum,” is the only moment on this very short project which I would truly call boring as it is devoid of rapping and instead built around selections from speeches by two women over a relatively weak beat. “Peanut,” seems to never quite find its rhythmic footing, and though I have respect for the experimental nature, it ultimately misses wide of the mark.

   In total, Some Rap Songs is a unique listening experience which really must be taken in in one sitting to be appreciated. When Earl stays in his wheelhouse he is quite effective, but the branching out yields a bit of a mixed bag of results.

   Some Rap Songs will likely be adored by true fans, but offers little for the uninitiated. 

5/10

HEAR SOME RAP SONGShttps://open.spotify.com/album/66at85wgO2pu5CccvqUF6i

Vince Staples Drops Yet Another Excellent Project

FM! aims to carry out the unique concept of a fun 20 minute car ride, bumping along to the FM radio, and having a good time doing it, and Vince executes this to perfection.

     Vince Staples is a rapper from North Long Beach, California. He gained notoriety in the hip-hop community with a series of four mixtape releases between 2011-2014. After the success of his last mixtape, Shyne Coldchain II, he was picked up by Def Jam Records and dropped Summertime ’06 in 2015 to universal critical acclaim and reasonably impressive commercial performance, thanks to the record’s lead single, “Norf Norf,” and the infamous reaction video made by a young mother, upset that her children had heard the lyrics. From here, Staples dropped Big Fish Theory in 2017, which was widely considered one of the best projects of the year.

   His musical style is quite unique, sporting a chaotic flow which often emphasizes strange rhyme schemes, and a hectic delivery on virtually every track. All this performed over traditional boom-bap instrumentals with distinctly industrial and psychedelic slants. In recent years, Vince has shown himself to be very lyrically talented and incredibly articulate in interviews and public appearances. Coming off of two hits in a row, the question begged itself: Could Vince Staples go a perfect three for three with FM! The short answer? Yes.

   To begin the long answer, we’ll start with Vince’s flow, which reaches new heights on this LP. His performance on tracks like the opener, “Feels Like Summer,” and “Don’t Get Chipped,” is expected as he delivers bar after bar over a driving beat, but songs like the title track or the closer and best track on the record, “Tweakin’,” see Staples taking on a new tone, playing with a strange accent on the former and dancing triplets over a slower, spacier instrumental on the latter. He’s beginning to come into his own aesthetically, and this shows through his ability to apply his touch anywhere.

   Above this, the beats on this album are fantastic. “Outside’s” eerie guitar lead, the strange, epic tone of “Relay,” and even what sounds like a xylophone on “No Bleedin’.” Each and every song features a broad instrument pallet, responsive drum work, and an interesting tone. Vince’s fantastic performances are elevated indefinitely by such powerful instrumentals.

   And, of course, the skits and sound bites here are especially enjoyable on this album. Working to develop the concept of this entire project as a 20 minute slice of an FM radio station, “New Earl Sweatshirt,” “Brand New Tyga,” and “(562)-453-9382” each run under a minute. The third is absolutely hilarious as a man calls into a radio station to compete for concert tickets. He is asked to name seven celebrities who’s names start with the letter “v” and is only able to muster “Venessa Williams” before his time is up, failing to consider Staples at all.

   These interludes are excellent, as is the overall concept of the album. With a runtime of only about 20 minutes, the concept keeps the project to a perfect pace, meaning it never drags or overstays its welcome. As with about 20 minutes of an FM radio show, FM! can easily be taken in over a short, morning drive, and it would seem that that is it’s purpose.

   In the end, I’m left with very little to complain about. Of course, the album won’t change the course of music history, but it’s a blast to listen to. Vince Staples set out to make a quick record to play as a soundtrack to a short drive around town, and he succeeded perfectly.

   FM! aims to carry out the unique concept of a fun 20 minute car ride, bumping along to the radio, and having a good time doing it, and Vince executes this to perfection.

7/10

HEAR FM!: https://open.spotify.com/album/1XGGeqLZxjOMdCJhmamIn8

Takeoff’s Solo Debut is Competent, but Uninventive

The Last Rocket does what it sets out to do quite competently, but the finished product is hardly distinguishable from the piles of trap music on the radio today.

     Takeoff is a rap/hip-hop artist from Atlanta Georgia. He is best known as a member of the massively successful trap trio, Migos, who’s 2017 LP Culture, and it’s lead single, “Bad and Boujee,” turned the hip-hop community on it’s head and ensured several more years for trap music at the top of the rap world. The group has continued their massive success with Culture II and the upcoming Culture III, scheduled for release in early 2019.

   Takeoff’s flow doesn’t particularly stand out from his fellow Migos members, but the group’s style as a whole has been something of a revolution in the rap world. Their bass-heavy, maximalist instrumentals, and triplet-centric flow has become the standard sound for the new wave of trap music. After the success of his group mate, Quavo, Takeoff has decided to branch out with his own LP, The Last Rocket, and it’s exactly what we expected.

   Oddly enough, one highlight of the record is found in the soundbites. The opener, “Martian” begins with an extended clip of an official sounding man counting down to liftoff, and “None To Me,” opens with an older man talking about “the fame, the money, the cars.” In most cases, this is a small point, but adds to the general production quality of the project, which is excellent.

   This production quality really rears its head in a few of the dreamier tracks. “She Gon Wink,” features chimes and an active flute part which are almost as effective as the heavily. Processed vocal line on “Last Memory.” None of these tracks, however, compare the spacious vibes on “Infatuation,” the best track on the LP, which calls back to the 90’s era of R&B with a driving beat, a pulsing synth, and an almost comically smooth, high-pitched lead vocal.

   In many ways, Takeoff even surpassed expectations, particularly with his flow. Starting this record for the first time, I was expecting a constant barrage of triplets with little variety, but I was given a pleasant supply. Particularly on cuts like “Vacation,” and “Insomnia,” Takeoff delivers a hard hitting and dynamic performance, which I wasn’t prepared for. Even on a track like “Bruce Wayne,” his groggy, mumbled flow fits the instrumental quite well. However, he did slip into old habits more than a few times.

   “Lead the Wave,” and “Casper,” are perhaps the most glaring instances of this as they are back to back and feature nearly identical, triplet-heavy flows for the majority of their runtimes. Here I found myself quite disappointed, as I’ve heard this flow of this type of instrumental far too many times, as is. And it’s this very complaint which leads me to my main critique of The Last Rocket.

   Trap music has sat atop the rap zeitgeist for quite sometime at this point, and thus, trap albums begin to face an entirely new round of troubles. Namely, what purpose does your album have for existing? Listen to a track like “Soul Plane,” or “I Remember,” and you’ll see what I mean. This record adds nothing to trap cannon that hasn’t been done better in the past. While Takeoff’s work, as with that of any Migos member, is of a higher quality than the bulk of this scene, but it remains mostly unremarkable in it’s cannon.

   The Last Rocket is a fun listen and it even has a few exciting moments on the first half of the forty minute runtime, but the majority is unnecessary and unmemorable. For a debut LP, the record feels remarkably tired and overdone, leaving little room for a musical future.

   The Last Rocket does what it sets out to do quite competently, but the finished product is hardly distinguishable from the piles of trap music on the radio today.

4/10

HEAR THE LAST ROCKET: https://open.spotify.com/album/5XRCcUfwtLNQflDd9cfz4U

Open Mike Eagle Mixes Chaos and Psychedelia on Newest EP

While What Happens When I Try to Relax lacks the focus and conceptuality of previous Open Mike Eagle Projects, his ability to spread this chaotic thought over smooth, psychedelic instrumentals makes for a fun listen that you’ll leave on repeat for a few days.

     Open Mike Eagle is a rapper and comedian from Chicago, Il. He is an absolute rockstar of the underground hip hop world with a unique flow and breakneck work ethic. He’s released nine LP’s in ten years, his latest project, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, finding it’s way onto nearly every end of year album lists in 2017. In addition, he’s released seven EP’s over this time and What Happens When I Try to Relax is the latest on this list. Having missed my chance to review his last record, I was determined to catch his next release, and luckily I didn’t have to wait long.

   The EP opens with “Relatable,” which sets the tone quite well, striking an almost epic feel in the opening verse despite the minimal beat. Mike’s flow is fairly simple but effective, and lyrically, he dances well between punchlines and serious diagnoses of his mind state and inability to cope with stress. He forgoes a chorus in favor of an excellent trumpet solo from Jordan Katz which acts as a kind of bridge between the track’s two verses. Overall, and excellent opener.

   “Every Single Thing,” follows with one of the funniest intros I’ve heard in a very long time which quickly dissolves into a much harder hitting track than it’s predecessor. Jumping from video game references to commentary on racism, Mike builds himself as a character in a very interesting way. His racial comments are particularly brutal, rapping “How it’s both sides, we both ain’t dyin’.” The instrumental is again, this time building mainly on slowly developing synth leads.

   The best track on the record falls square in the middle with “Microfiche.” Over the nondescript, psychedelic beat, Mike’s flow is unstoppable, mixed perfectly between lyrically heavy-hitting and melodically soft. The rapped hook is fun and singable and topics range from drug use to, again, video games, through politics, and a dash of mental health. His ability to filter his hectic lack of focus through a soft, listenable aesthetic is a microcosm of what makes What Happens When I Try to Relax such an enjoyable project.

   The follow up, “Single Ghosts,” is far more nocturnal as Mike tells a very October-appropriate tale of falling in love with a ghost. This track blurs the lines between comedy and horror rap in a unique way. I have the utmost appreciation for his replication of the Ghost Busters hook, and I enjoy the switch up, however, this will likely be the track I find myself revisiting the least.

   “Southside Eagle,” is up next with an excellent, dreamy chorus as the opening. While the flow is a bit boring, Mike’s lyrics about seeing fellow rappers around him but feeling out of place, as well as his lines examining the effects of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” on the lives of bullied youth, are especially thoughtful and a perfect example of what makes him such a beloved feature of the underground hip-hop scene.

   “Maybe Gang” closes the project very well. Much of Mike’s flow is comedically inept, though the several of the rhyme schemes are quite elite. The hook is an ear worm, one the only of it’s kind on the record, and the trap cymbals that adorn the entire track set the tone in an interesting way. It’s a respectable closer for a more than respectable project.

   This EP is fun, it’s comical at times, and more than anything, it’s supremely listenable. As Open Mike Eagle bounces from topic to topic with flow and conviction, there’s nothing to do but bob your head and try to keep up.

   While What Happens When I Try to Relax lacks the focus and conceptuality of previous Open Mike Eagle Projects, his ability to spread this chaotic thought over smooth, psychedelic instrumentals makes for a fun listen that you’ll leave on repeat for a few days.

4/10

HEAR WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I TRY TO RELAXhttps://open.spotify.com/album/7qTEGu0Gvikwk1n8SwjmEL

Twenty One Pilots Reemerge With Catchy but Deeply Flawed Fifth Album

With the increased maturity, the duo’s weaknesses shine more brightly than ever, and in some cases even cover up the many strengths that do exist on this album.

     Twenty One Pilots is an alternative hip-hop/pop/electronica duo from Columbus Ohio. They worked their way up through the music industry with an organic, grassroots fanbase eating up their self-titled debut and the follow up, Regional at Best in 2009 and 2011 respectively. They went on to sign a deal with Fueled by Ramen and release their breakout LP, Vessel in 2013, which still holds up to this day thanks to it’s youthful exuberance and experimental nature. Their 2015 follow up, Blurryface hasn’t aged nearly as well as it’s predecessor, though it was well received with the “Stressed Out” single netting them a grammy in 2016. Earlier this year, Blurryface became the first album in music history to have at least a gold certification for every track.

   Twenty One Pilots have been touring relentlessly since their last release until their recent and rather pretentious announcement that Trench would release later this year. Social media was abuzz and the first few singles showed quite a bit of promise. Though the once dominant Fueled By Ramen label has, in recent years, become a cesspool of thirty-something year old pop-rockers singing to twenty-something fans reliving their high school emo days, Twenty One Pilots showed a few signs of life and maturity in their lyricism and sound. I found myself excited to hear Trench, if a bit cautious, and now that it’s out, the record does pack a few surprises.

   The band’s best talent on this record is, as it always was, their ability to write hooks. Tracks like “Chlorine,” or “Morph,” are built around undeniable ear-worms that will bounce around in a listeners head for weeks to come. Even some of the records later cuts, “Bandito,” for example, are extremely catchy and feature very well written choruses.

   Beyond this, Josh Dunn’s drums are, of course, a treasure trove of fun fills and rhythms. “Legend” features a fun, easy rock beat which stands as one of the last remnants of the duo’s earlier sound. Much of the closer, “Leave This City,” on the other hand is driven by a fairly complex cymbal rhythm which all but makes up for the unremarkable nature of the track.

   Tyler Joseph’s contributions, however, are not as consistent. He gives an excellent, emotional performance on the opener and my favorite cut, “Jumpsuit,” and his quirky vocal is perfect for the upbeat tribute to his wife, “Smithereens.” His rapping, though, is not nearly as exciting on the trap influenced “Levitate,” or most anywhere else he raps on this project. Where Tyler’s screaming flow was once erratic and youthful, it comes off as awkward or uninteresting on much of Trench.

   The instrumentals are rarely memorable, but do provide a few highlights. The fuzzy guitar on the aforementioned opener are fantastic, and the discreet ukulele on “Nico and the Niners” is a nice touch. Furthermore, a few of the more electronic tracks like “My Blood,” or “The Hype,” are actually quite rich and mix in Joseph’s newfound love of bass guitar well.

   Lyrically we find an odd issue rearing its head. Songs like “Neon Gravestones,” or “Legend,” benefit from interesting choices in topic, especially the former which indicts our culture’s glorification of mental illness and suicide. The bulk of the lyricism is relatively inoffensive, though a bit repetitive.

   However, Trench is constantly plagued by an effort to develop an absurdly intricate concept following a dystopian future and some kind of rebellion against a theocratic government with so many characters and details that virtually no casual or even dedicated listener could unweave it without reading the loads of written material which the band uploaded along with the album. The vast majority of the storyline takes place in the writing with the album only casually mentioning it and many tracks completely forgoing the concept all together. This has the effect of interrupting otherwise interesting songs with ridiculous and meaningless lyrics which only exist to loosely tie in the plot of this external story. In short, Trench is a textbook example of how not to write a concept album.

   The only other complaint I have falls mainly over the second half of the album in that much of it is simply boring. Tracks like “Cut My Lip,” and “Pet Cheetah,” are messy and go nowhere, with the latter easily standing as the low point of the record. “Bandito,” though featuring a nice hook, doesn’t justify it’s five and a half minute runtime as none of the musical ideas really grow or develop in anyway.

   Trench is an odd album because it shines in many ways. Josh Dunn is as good as ever on drums, Paul Meany’s production leads to many interesting, small touches to be discovered on repeat plays, and Tyler Joseph clearly still has the ability to craft interesting musical ideas. This album could even pass as an alright addition to the Twenty One Pilots catalog, but after revisiting Vessel or even Blurryface, it becomes clear that Trench lacks a certain youthful energy which once glaze over the weaker elements of the band’s work.

   With the increased maturity, the duo’s weaknesses shine more brightly than ever, and in some cases even cover up the many strengths that do exist on this album.

5/10

HEAR TRENCH: https://open.spotify.com/album/621cXqrTSSJi1WqDMSLmbL

The Wait is Over, Carter V is Finally Here, and it’s Excellent

Lil Wayne is an undeniable legend of rap music, and Tha Carter V shows us all exactly why.

     Lil’ Wayne is, undeniably, a legend in the hip-hop world. He debuted in 1996 with a group called Hot Boys on their debut album Get It How U Live! At fifteen, Wayne was the youngest member of the group and went on to easily the most successful solo career out of the five members. He released his first solo project in 1999 with Tha Block is Hot, which went platinum.

   This album series, however, began with the first Carter album in 2004 and was last updated by 2011’s Tha Carter IV. Today, The Carter series is one of the most critically and commercially successful album series of all time and after a seven year break due to legal troubles, Wayne is ready to return to The Carter this time with the added challenge of making the record feel current and new after a long hiatus from a genre which evolves at a breakneck pace. Luckily for all of us, he does this well.

   The first and most obvious notable quality of Carter V is the runtime. Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, this record is able to explore every idea fully, and a few times to an exhaustive extent. This can, at first make the album feel a bit daunting, but it isn’t nearly as dense as length may suggest, and the bulk of of these tracks are hits rather than misses.

   Perhaps the most interesting piece of this album is the production which, though handled by several different producers, strikes a surprisingly similar tone throughout. Tracks like “Can’t Be Broken,” “Open Safe,” “Famous,” and “Took His Time,” benefit from instrumentals which are very dated in the best possible way. They’re very reminiscent of Wayne’s work in his prime, around the mid-2000’s, during the early years of trap music and this is the first time that this sound has been done well in many years.

   On other occasions, the album’s sound is very current. Tracks like “Demon,” and “Dope New Gospel,” sport a very interesting neo-soul vibe which is done very well with excellent vocal work from Nivea on the latter. Wayne’s classic sung/rap flow fits well on these tracks as he lyrically dances over these beats with a skill that only comes from experience.

   In addition to all this, the soundbites which Wayne and his team chose for this album are fantastic. From the message from Wayne’s mother on the “I Love You Dwayne,” intro to her subsequent appearances on “Used 2,” and “Let It All Work Out,” which close out the project, each of these clips are extremely moving and bring weight to the album’s subject matter. On top of these, Barrack Obama makes a hilarious appearance on “Dedicate,” and Katie Couric drops by on “Hittas,” to remind us all that “Lil’ Wayne answers to no-one.”

   The features list here sports a few surprising names and interesting omissions. Thankfully, Drake doesn’t make an appearance, save for one line. Nicki Minaj, however, does feature on the rather underwhelming “Dark Side of the Moon,” with her best verse in several years. Similarly, Travis Scott gives an uncharacteristically solid performance on “Let it Fly.” The late XXXTentacion’s hook on “Don’t Cry,” is eiry and Snoop Dogg gives a fun closing verse on “Dope N***az.”

   The best feature, however, and the best track on the album as a whole is Kendrick Lamar on “Mona Lisa,” which just may be one of the best rap tracks of the year. In it, Wayne and Kendrick tell a grimy story of set ups, robbery, and theft with fantastic flow and storytelling abilities that really draws the parallel between two artists who have long been at the top of their game.

   The most impressive and exciting aspect of all of this is, without a doubt, Wayne’s flow. Listen to tracks like “Uproar,” “Open Letter,” “Problems,” or the very close contender for the title of best track on the album, “Start This Shit Off Right,” for the most shining examples of this, but Wayne’s flow is excellent on nearly every song. He often hangs on to a single rhyme for long periods of time, dropping non-stop bars along the way without missing a beat. His lyricism has improved, and he rarely relies on punchlines as he once did, but his iconic, hard-hitting flow is here in spades.

   All of this being said, I do have a few complaints. The worst track on this album, by far, is “Mess,” though other songs like “What About Me,” and “Perfect Strangers,” suffer from a similar issue: boring R&B beats that severely limit Wayne’s flow and offer nothing of substance to make up for this. This is the album’s worst offense, though several of the outros are far too long and the entire runtime could benefit quite a bit from shaving off 20-30 unjustified minutes.

   All of this being said, Tha Carter V is nothing short of excellent. After the nearly five year wait, we finally have brand new tracks from Lil Wayne with a full budget and original beats and it is well worth the wait. Rap music is often measured in eras, and the Wheezy era ended a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean that the man can’t still release fantastic music.

   Lil Wayne is an undeniable legend of rap music, and Tha Carter V shows us all exactly why.

8/10

HEAR THA CARTER V: https://open.spotify.com/album/50yFYgKdwJANZ5O9MIbMkg