(Left to right in the banner pic: Mark Foster from Foster the People, Lil B, Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters, Alison Mosshart from The Kills & The Dead Weather, Kendrick Lamar)

This is the most least important award show you’ll ever be a part of.  Here’s what I think the best and worst music of 2011 was through the first 8 months.

The Based God Award for Best Song by Lil B this year:
Winner: “I Hate Myself” by Lil B — This is a surprisingly deep and serious song by Lil B that’s actually pretty decent musically. Songs like this one prove that he’s just having fun when he makes the ridiculous stuff like “I’m Miley Cyrus”.

Lifetime achievement award for sucking an incredible amount throughout their career:
Winner: The Black Eyed Peas — I’m not sure if they even released any music this year but just in case they did I’m giving them this award.
Runner-up: Fergie

Award for the album that got good reviews but I hate:
Winner: Death Grips – Exmilitary — I don’t get it. Is this getting praise just because it’s different? A guy randomly yell-rapping over some really lo-fi production doesn’t make for interesting music.
Runner-up: James Blake – James Blake

Best album opener:
*This isn’t necessarily the individual song that I liked the most. This is a combination of how much I like the specific song and how well it works to set up the rest of the album.
Winner: Foo Fighters – Bridge Burning — That opening riff, man. Add that to Dave Grohl screaming “THESE ARE MY FAMOUS LAST WORDS” and you get one of the more memorable album openers in recent memory.
Runner-up: CunninLynguists – Predormitum (Prologue)



Best music video:
Winner: Radiohead – Lotus Flower
Thom Yorke’s dancing is still funny to me.


Worst album art:
Winner: Yuck – Yuck

I know that judging a book (or an album) by its cover is a remarkably dumb thing to do but I did it for this album. I HATE that cover and refused to give it a shot just because of it. Eventually I did listen to this album and it’s alright indie rock. Still hate this cover.


 

Best album art:
Winner: EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
I don’t really know why I like this cover as much as I do. I think the colors EMA used on it just create a really cool effect when combined with the shadowing and the lens flare on her fingers.

 

 

 

Trend that I really wish would go away:

Look at these three.

I didn’t even have to go digging for when they looked the most ridiculous because all three of these pictures were taken at the same award show. The message I’m getting from the likes of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj is “my music isn’t good enough to stand out on its own so I have to fake being as weird as possible to get people to pay attention to me”. It was a funny image when the VMAs held their Amy Winehouse tribute and the camera panned to Katy “I’m gonna wear a giant block on my head” Perry. I don’t really care about Amy Winehouse but when you see something like that it makes the “tribute” seem like a clown show.

I have nothing against eccentricity in music. To use another solo female singer as an example, Lykke Li has a bit of an eccentric personality but she doesn’t try to prove it to other people by dressing up like a weirdo at every award show there is. She lets the music speak for itself. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and others like them are just trying way too hard.

Award for the album I didn’t care for at all at first but now I love:
Winner: Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes — Thank god I gave this a second chance after thinking it was pretentious boring crap at first. I don’t know what was wrong with me the first time I heard it.
Runner-up: The Kills – Blood Pressures

Award for the album I really liked at first but got almost no replay value:
Winner: Elzhi – Elmatic — I still think this is very well-made for what it is. Elzhi put years of work into this remake of Nas’ Illmatic that includes live instrumentation for the beats. Unfortunately it’s pretty much still Illmatic; Illmatic’s a great album but I’ve already heard it a hundred times. I think the same could be said for virtually anybody who would have been interested in this. After a little bit it sounds stale.
Runner-up: Pac Div – Mania!

Award for the most underwhelming album:
Winner: Lupe Fiasco – LasersThis has all the signs of a label influencing an artist’s creative process. Lupe has enjoyed the most radio play/mainstream recognition of his career thanks to Lasers but that’s because this album was “dumbed down” (which was something he railed against in his previous album).
Runner-up: Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You

Award for the album I keep telling myself I’ll listen to but never get around to it:
Winner: The Throne – Watch the ThroneI would probably really like this.
Runner-up: TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

Award for the album I feel like I should like but don’t:
Winner: Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver
– I think the effect Justin Vernon uses on his vocals are what ruins it for me.
Runner-up: PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Best song that sounds happy but is actually about a really depressing topic:
Winner: Foster the People – Pumped Up Kicks — I think it’s safe to say that this is the catchiest song ever written that centers around a school shooting.
Runner-up: Cults – Abducted



Top 5 albums from 2010 now that I’ve had 8 more months to think it over:
5. The Naked and Famous – Passive Me, Aggressive You
4. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
3. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
1. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

Kno’s Death is Silent, which was originally my #1 of 2010, is now #6. I still like it but it doesn’t have the replay value the rest of these did for me. I haven’t even thought about listening to it for months.

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My first real exposure to The Naked and Famous was when I went to their (fantastic) Lollapalooza set. Before that I pretty much only heard their singles “Punching in a Dream” and “Young Blood”. Those two songs have a LOT in common with each other so I expected their other songs to sound pretty similar to those. I ended up really surprised with the other stuff Passive Me, Aggressive You had to offer.

The two songs I mentioned above are poppy songs with heavy emphasis on synthesizers; they sound like they could have been ripped straight out of a teen movie from the 1980s. As singles I think both of those tracks are nearly perfect. The catchiness of those songs hooked me onto this band but the rest of the album is what makes me keep coming back.

Soundwise the rest of the album is all over the place. It’s all indie rock with lots of keys and synths but after that the songs sound so different from one another. “All of This” has a bit of a dream pop/shoegaze feel to it where both singers (one male, one female) harmonize throughout. “The Sun” starts really slow and reminds me of Phoenix’s “Love Like a Sunset” with how much it just builds louder and louder as the song goes on. “Wolf in Geek’s Clothing” sounds like a noise pop track a la Sleigh Bells. For the most part these different styles all work to great success. Some of the songs like “Jilted Lovers” and “No Way” took longer to grow on me but now I really like them.

One of the things that makes The Naked and Famous stand out to me is their use of two vocalists that often sound so different from each other yet complement each other perfectly. Thom Powers probably has the better voice of the two for the most part. His voice is used for a gentler effect, a foil to Alisa Xayalith’s energetic (and usually louder) vocals. There’s no way I’d like this band as much as I do if either of these members were missing and the other one did 100% of the vocals instead. Even though their two “big” singles have Xayalith leading the way, there are a few songs here where she fades into the background and just provides backing vocals (her soft backing vocals are what really make the song “Girls Like You” awesome). There are also tracks where the two harmonize the whole way through.

I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone out there but I’m a big fan now and I really want to see what they’re going to do in the future. This band’s only going to get better as they get more experienced and figure out how to put a fully cohesive album together (Passive Me, Aggressive You sounds like a bunch of singles just thrown together at parts). If you like 80s pop or indie rock in general, at least give this a shot.

Rating: 8.5/10

Wiz Khalifa – Rolling Papers

The closer and closer we got to the release date for Rolling Papers, the less and less excited I got. The first single from this album, “Black and Yellow”, is an awesome song and a great example of how a rapper can go pop without completely selling out his style. Everything I heard after that song (specifically “Roll Up”) was a great example of how to completely change your style for the worse just in an attempt to go pop.

While this album as a whole doesn’t really sound like the singles, unfortunately it’s closer to “Roll Up” than “Black and Yellow”. In fact, “Black and Yellow” feels completely out of place on Rolling Papers. There’s a lot of relaxed melodic singing/rapping on this album that I think works wonderfully on an album like Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon; it doesn’t really work on this.

Khalifa’s rapping and subject matter throughout the album just bored me. There was little variation from song to song and most of the tracks on this album sound exactly like the one that came before it. Usually I want features on a rap album kept to a minimum but here I was wishing for more. The best song on this album is probably “Rooftops” which is one of the very few tracks that features another rapper (longtime Wiz collaborator Curren$y).

The production doesn’t really stand out either so this album as a whole is just “meh”. I think this will probably please hardcore “Taylor Gang or die!” Wiz fans but for just about everyone else this album is really easy to skip.
Score: 4.0/10


Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

I’ll just come out and say it right off the bat — Wounded Rhymes is a freaking god-tier indie pop album. If CunninLynguists didn’t exist this would be my front-runner for album of the year and nothing else really comes close at this point. If this came out last year I would’ve had to seriously consider making it my AOTY for 2010. So yeah…I really like this.

When you compare Wounded Rhymes to (her previous album) Youth Novels, Lykke Li might as well be two completely different people. In that album she sounded quieter and more timid; here her voice is more or less in your face. Make no mistake about it — her new style is miles better than how she was on her previous album.

There’s also more going on in the background here than on Li’s first LP. It’s not a HUGE difference because the minimalist sound of that album is still the foundation here but now a few more instruments are added and more “stuff” is going on. In addition to that on a lot of songs Li’s voice is multiplied so she’s singing lead + backup vocals. This helps flesh out the album a little more.

Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes (Hype Machine Album Exclusive) by LykkeLi

Even though I’m making it sound like every song is upbeat and energetic that’s really not the case. It’s almost split 50/50 between the faster catchy songs and the slower more atmospheric stuff. I think I like the energetic songs more but both types of songs complement each other well and make this a really solid all-around album.

Even after saying all of that, I don’t love every second of this album. In particular I have issues with “Unrequited Love”. There are parts of that song I enjoy but I really do not like the chorus. She shrieks really loud during the chorus of that song and it comes close to hurting my ears.

Unrequited Love aside, this album is fantastic from start to finish. The rest of the album more than makes up for the problems I had with that song. Maybe I’m getting too easy with my review scores — after this my last two reviews add up to a combined 19.75/20. It’s a good thing Wiz Khalifa is coming along to bring that average down.
Score: 9.75/10

CunninLynguists – Oneirology
Stream the entire album for free via bandcamp

I was probably looking forward to this album more than I’ve ever looked forward to an album before. It got to the point where I was starting to feel some “reverse-hype” because I thought I was hyping the album up too much and setting myself up for disappointment (which is exactly what happened with albums like Slaughterhouse’s LP in the past). Not only did Oneirology meet my expectations, it surpassed them. If you like hip-hop at all (and especially if you like amazing production) you should listen to this album.

Kno’s production is generally the first thing people think of when talking about CunninLynguists and deservedly so. I know there are some who are afraid to say this since he got his start in the 21st century, but Kno really deserves to be in the conversation with DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Dr Dre as one of the best hip-hop producers ever. Some of the beats on Oneirology sound (almost literally) out of this world. Many of these beats have a spacelike/dreamlike sound to them (fitting since Oneirology is the study of dreams) and sound to me like they’re more complex and layered than anything Kno’s done before. I know more complex doesn’t necessarily mean better but the production on this album is some of the best I’ve heard.

That’s not to say Kno is working with a couple of bums here. Deacon the Villain and Natti probably won’t be in any “greatest rapper of all time” conversation but I don’t know of any other rappers who could mesh with Kno’s production as well as these two can (…maybe Tonedeff can). This really is a group effort all the way around and everyone in the group knows how to complement each other perfectly on Oneirology. Take any one of the three members away from the group and there’s no way this album is anywhere near as good as it is.

There are a lot of interesting lyrical concepts on this album but I’ll single out and talk about one of my favorites. At the end of “Phantasmata” a voice talks about how many of our basic desires are taboo and these things don’t appear directly in our dreams. Instead, they’re modified by a variety of devices that disguise them. This leads into “Hard as They Come” where each rapper’s verse is a metaphor for a different “evil” in society. Natti is talking about alcohol, (featured guest) Freddie Gibbs is talking about cocaine, and Kno is talking about AIDS. It’s pretty deep and I absolutely love stuff like that.

Speaking of the features, all of them deliver. There are four guest rappers (Freddie Gibbs, Big KRIT, Tonedeff, and Tunji) and I have no idea how I’d rank them 1-4 because they’re all outstanding on Oneirology. There are a few guest singers as well; while they’re all good the standout of these singers is definitely Anna Wise from Sonnymoon (who appears on a couple tracks). To be honest I had no idea who she was before this album but I’m really glad they included her. Rappers everywhere should take note, this is how you add a female vocalist to your songs.

I’m embedding a couple songs on this review but they really don’t do the songs justice. This isn’t your typical hip-hop album where you’ll have some singles and the artist randomly fills up the rest of the album with other songs. Oneirology plays like one long single and you’re really better off if you listen to the whole thing from track 1 to track 15 because of how every song flows into the next.

Most hip-hop artists are content with staying the same throughout their careers but every once in a while you’ll get some groups that always look to try new things. Over the past decade CunninLynguists have been a perfect example of a group not afraid to experiment and evolve; Oneirology is unlike anything these guys have done before. Is this better than A Piece of Strange (which I believe to be their best work)? I can’t really say. They’re too different from one another and I can’t make my mind up on which one I enjoy more. I’ll just say this – APOS is an incredible album and so is Oneirology.

Score: 10/10

Pac Div – Mania!
Free download here

March is a pretty stacked month when it comes to hip-hop releases I’m looking forward to hearing. I’m hyped for seven releases this month – Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers, Pac Div’s Mania!, Curren$y’s Muscle Car Chronicles, Raekwon’s Shaolin vs Wu-Tang, Travis Barker’s Give the Drummer Some (which isn’t exactly hip-hop but most of the guests are rappers so I’m counting it), CunninLynguists’ Oneirology, and Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers. I’m planning on reviewing all seven of these albums. The fourth is Pac Div’s Mania!.

This mixtape really just feels like something to make existing Pac Div fans happy while we’re waiting on their album. They really aren’t doing anything groundbreaking here but they’re sticking to their style of being good rappers with Cool Kids-style minimalist beats.

Mania! feels a bit inconsistent compared to Pac Div’s previous two releases (Church League Champions and Don’t Mention It). They set the bar pretty high with those releases and they didn’t quite meet my expectations with Mania!. There are some great tracks here (Anti-Freeze, Somethin’, Still a Knucklehead), but there are also a few songs that sound bland and as if I’ve heard them before.

One thing that annoyed me a little bit was that it was hosted by Don Cannon; Pac Div’s last two mixtapes had no DJs yelling but Cannon’s yelling just about ruins the first verse of Anti-Freeze on this one. For the most part throughout the tape he’s pretty bearable, but when will retarded mixtape DJs like Cannon learn that shouting your name just gets everyone to hate you? I get that he wants to get his name out there but all he’s doing is being remembered as the guy who ruins everything.

So overall, I thought this was a solid mixtape that will hold over existing fans of the group. I don’t think it will make that many new fans – Church League Champions is the best mixtape to go to if you’re looking to get into these guys.
Score: 7.25/10


Travis Barker – Give the Drummer Some

March is a pretty stacked month when it comes to hip-hop releases I’m looking forward to hearing. I’m hyped for seven releases this month – Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers, Pac Div’s Mania!, Curren$y’s Muscle Car Chronicles, Raekwon’s Shaolin vs Wu-Tang, Travis Barker’s Give the Drummer Some (which isn’t exactly hip-hop but most of the guests are rappers so I’m counting it), CunninLynguists’ Oneirology, and Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers. I’m planning on reviewing all seven of these albums. The third is Travis Barker’s Give the Drummer Some.

Let me get this out of the way before anything else – when it comes to Give the Drummer Some, it really makes no difference if you are a blink-182 fan or not. I’ve seen people who love blink-182 really dislike this album and at the same time I’ve seen people who don’t care for blink-182 say they really liked this album. To give you an idea where I’m coming from, I think blink-182’s alright but I’m not a huge fan or anything.

Give the Drummer Some is not a pop punk album at all. For all intents and purposes this is a hip-hop album that has a big rock influence. Since Travis Barker himself doesn’t rap or sing and since an instrumental album probably wouldn’t be all that interesting to most, these tracks all have guest appearances. The guests on this album are mostly rappers but after that they’re about as random as you can get — guests range from Kid Cudi to Tech N9ne to Lupe Fiasco.

Since every track has different featured artists on them, this album is a bit hit-or-miss for me. My favorite tracks are the ones where the rappers on the track are aggressive and complement Travis Barker’s style well. One track in particular that really stands out is “Carry It” where Raekwon and RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan team up with Tom Morello (Morello just sticks to guitar). RZA’s aggressive delivery throughout most of the track really fits with Barker. Another track I enjoyed was “Can a Drummer Get Some” which features (The) Game, Rick Ross, Swizz Beatz, and Lil’ Wayne – Wayne could’ve derailed this song but he delivered one of his better verses in recent memory.

On the flip side of that are the guys who aren’t known for being in your face. I really like The Cool Kids but their laid-back delivery doesn’t really work on “Jump Down“. Snoop Dogg’s verse on “Knockin” really didn’t interest me. One laid-back rapper that I did like on this album was Kid Cudi on “Cool Head“. It’s a strange song and sounds like Travis Barker remixed a track that could be on one of Cudi’s Man on the Moon albums – the combo of Barker and Cudi is a disaster on paper but it worked surprisingly well for me.

Generally speaking the good on this album really outweighs the bad. It’s different compared to most of the stuff I’m used to and pretty enjoyable. After listening to four of the seven March releases I was looking forward to, this is surprisingly my favorite of them (I haven’t reviewed Pac Div’s Mania! yet but this is slightly better). That said, I’ll be shocked if it stays my favorite by the end of the month. I’m guessing that Curren$y will get an 8 or higher from me and it looks like CunninLynguists are about to drop an atomic bomb on the rest of hip-hop. Let’s not talk about Wiz Khalifa.
Score: 7.75/10

CunninLynguists – A Piece of Strange

Prior to 2005 the CunninLynguists made a bit of a name for themselves among big hip-hop fans with 2001’s Will Rap for Food and 2003’s Southernunderground, but based on those albums I’m not sure anyone could have seen A Piece of Strange coming. I’m a big fan of their first two albums but they took a much different approach on both of them. They didn’t really create their signature sound yet – they weren’t doing much that was new on those first two albums but they were very well-executed.

Both Deacon the Villain and Kno were known as rappers who used humorous and somewhat immature wordplay to get their thoughts across and none of that carried over onto A Piece of Strange. This is a very mature album and you won’t hear any songs where they just list off ways to mess with people anymore (sidenote: that song from Will Rap For Food, “Fukinwichu”, should still be listened to because it’s hilarious. “Challenge Christopher Reeve to a game of Twister” / “Kidnap an Amish family and lock ’em inside a Circuit City”).

I’ve noticed a bit of a trend with CunninLynguists albums (and this is one trend that A Piece of Strange actually does follow). All of their group albums start off with an intro song that has no rapping on it which transitions into the second song on the album. The second song is always the one of the fastest tracks on the album (Lynguistics / Southernunderground / Valley of Death). “Since When” is the second track on this album and it too is an energetic song. Even though it’s more or less braggadocio rap, upon hearing the song longtime fans would have immediately been able to tell that this album was going to be a step into a more mature direction for CunninLynguists.

“Since When” works as a great way to draw the listener to the album (it was the first song I’ve ever heard by these guys and was hooked immediately) but after that track the album shifts to a slower, more somber tone. This is really the type of album that is designed to be listened to late at night with the lights off. Kno did a lot of rapping on the group’s first two albums but on this one he stepped away from the mic (he has one verse on the whole album) to concentrate on the production and it was a really smart move. This is one of the best produced hip-hop albums of all time.

One thing I’ve seemed to notice with this album is that it’s so well-rounded that fans of the album can’t agree on what tracks are the best. Everyone seems to have different favorites on this album. My favorite track on the first half of the album is “Brain Cell”, which is the only track on the album that has verses from all three members in the group. The second verse (Kno’s) might be my favorite verse I’ve ever heard.

I don’t want to make it sound like I’m short-changing the first half of this album because the first half is great, but the second half of the album is just mindblowing. The last six tracks in particular are probably my favorite stretch of 6 tracks in a row that I’ve heard on any album.

The first of these six tracks is “The Gates”, assisted by QN5 labelmate Tonedeff. I know this review is starting to sound like hyperbole overload, but this is one of the five best hip-hop songs I’ve ever heard (and also one of the slowest). It’s four minutes long, but I wish it was longer because when it’s over it always leaves me wanting more. That’s never a bad thing.

After an interlude the next full-length song is “Hellfire” which starts off a little stupid in the first 20 seconds but the rest of it is awesome. This and “Since When” are the only fast/energetic songs on the entire album; this one is really something that deserves to be played really loud to appreciate it fully. After “Hellfire” comes “Remember Me (Abstract/Reality)” — if I’m ever debating the best hip-hop producers of all-time with someone I’ll throw Kno in the conversation and link them to this song. It’s an instrumental that’s over four minutes long yet it still manages to be one of the best songs on a stellar album.

The album closes with “What’ll You Do?” and then “The Light”. These are slower tracks that are an excellent way to close out the album. It never ceases to amaze me how whenever I listen to A Piece of Strange all the way through, these tracks make me look back and think “that was really awesome”.

I could probably talk about this album for another 1,000 words but I won’t. I haven’t even touched on the fact that this is a concept album and tells a story from song to song (and the story just adds to how brilliant I think this album is). A Piece of Strange is really an unbelievable album from start to finish.
Score: 10/10


Chip Tha Ripper – Gift Raps
Free download here

I was really looking forward to seven hip-hop releases this month and Gift Raps wasn’t one of them (nothing against Chip, I just wasn’t really familiar with him outside of a few guest spots). However, this will probably go down as one of the best releases of the month and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it on my “top 11 albums of the year” list at the end of the year.

Like I said I didn’t really know much about Chip Tha Ripper – the only places I’ve heard him were with features on Kid Cudi’s albums and Pac Div’s Don’t Mention It. What really sparked my interest about this mixtape is the fact that Chuck Inglish from The Cool Kids produced this in its entirety. I’m a fan of The Cool Kids primarily for their production, and Gift Raps sounds like it could be a Cool Kids album. If you like The Cool Kids I’d really recommend downloading this especially since it was released for free.

For those unfamiliar with The Cool Kids, Chuck Inglish uses really stripped down beats with lots of kicks and snares in them. Instead of just making a 5-second beat and looping the beat the whole way through, he usually likes to switch things up a little bit throughout the song to make sure it doesn’t get stale. He creates a pretty unique sound and I’ve heard of people who aren’t big fans of hip-hop really enjoying what The Cool Kids do.

I’ve only been talking about the production so far but Chip Tha Ripper is a very talented rapper as well.  If I had to compare him to anyone, I’d say his voice sounds like a mix of Gucci Mane and Kid Cudi when he’s rapping. That’s really selling Chip short though because he has a much better flow and is much more interesting to listen to than either of those rappers (I like Cudi and Gucci’s alright, but their rapping ability isn’t the main reason I like either one of them).

Gift Raps came out of nowhere for me but it was a pretty pleasant surprise. It was released on March 1st 2011 and as far as I’m concerned it’s the best release of the year up to that point. It’s making me want to go out and get some of Chip Tha Ripper’s earlier stuff as well.
Score: 8.75/10

Lupe Fiasco – Lasers

March is a pretty stacked month when it comes to hip-hop releases I’m looking forward to hearing. I’m hyped for seven releases this month – Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers, Pac Div’s Mania!, Curren$y’s Muscle Car Chronicles, Raekwon’s Shaolin vs Wu-Tang, Travis Barker’s Give the Drummer Some (which isn’t exactly hip-hop but most of the guests are rappers so I’m counting it), CunninLynguists’ Oneirology, and Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers. I’m planning on reviewing all seven of these albums and the first is Lasers.

You know there’s a problem when an album’s not even out yet and the artist himself is giving interviews talking about how much he hates his own album. Usually artists wait months or years before acknowledging something like that since they typically want to sell as many albums as possible even if it is subpar – but to come out this early and call it crap is unheard of.

As I started listening to this album I didn’t get what all the hate was about. “Letting Go” is a very good opening track – Lupe’s rapping is fine, the production is pretty good, and the hook is really catchy (which isn’t something you can say for a lot of Lupe Fiasco songs). Even though I liked this track, the rest of the album happened and I completely understood what the hate was about.

“Words I Never Said” is okay, I guess. It was originally supposed to be an Airplanes-type song but Lupe instead injected his heavy political opinions into the song which is starting to come off as repetitive. He’s listed off injustices in the world many times before and here he is doing it again. Skylar Grey is serviceable enough on the hook but as far as rap hooks go she isn’t even in the same league as Rihanna. The beat on this track is a bit overbearing and doesn’t do anything for me either.

If you ask me the lone bright bright spot in the rest of the album is “The Show Goes On” which is a song he released as a single months ago. It’s not exactly what I’d expect from Lupe but I still really enjoy it – it has a really obvious Modest Mouse sample which is perfectly fine with me since Modest Mouse is awesome.  Before I ultimately scrapped my “best hip-hop songs of 2010” article I put this song in the top 10. I really like it.

Unfortunately the rest of the album doesn’t sound like a Lupe Fiasco album at all. The trend in the mainstream recently has been to rap over generic electro beats and that’s enough to get you on the radio. Obviously Atlantic felt the same way since the rest of this album sounds like a lovechild between old Lupe Fiasco and current-day Black Eyed Peas. If anyone reading this knows me, they’ll know that me comparing anything to the Black Eyed Peas is not a positive comment. Some of the songs on this album are laughably bad even by pop rap standards (see “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now“). This is not the Lupe Fiasco I became a big fan of years ago.

So….yeah. Seven big hip-hop albums coming out this month and so far it looks like we’re 0 for 1. It’s a bit disappointing to wait for this album for four years and just get a generic label-influenced album.
Score: 3.5/10