4 Your Eyez Only - J. Cole
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)
Ever since 2014's Forest Hills Drive, I officially consider myself a fan of J. Cole. Born Sinner was the first project I felt warranted buying, but FHD was excellent from start to finish. Therefore once the two promo tracks, "Everybody Dies" & "False Prophets", along with the documentary, "Eyez", I was one of the many giddy with anticipation. I looked forward to seeing how all the live instrumentation and composition would lead to that was so heavily focused on in "Eyez". Yet, the final product surprised me.
4 Your Eyez Only is a generally soulful ride through the eyes of Cole and one of his close homies. The perspectives blur from time to time, but is easily forgivable by the production and flows that suck you in. The final title track really brings the purpose of the album to light by explaining how the LP is a message dedicated to the close friend's homie who he lost to the street life he couldn't escape. Though sometimes the lyrics can be polarizing by the word choices, the sentiments can be endearing enough to make it enjoyable. I, myself, like the project although I don't feel it topped his last major release nor met the expectations given from the promo singles. Regardless, I still have to recommend this to hip hop heads who dig the average man's story with soul. Personal favorite tracks include: "Immortal", "Ville Mentality", & "Neighbors".
Get Used to Me - T-Rell
T-Rell is an artist I have kept a slight eye on ever since I met him at an event he threw in my hometown. As a fellow Topekan, I felt obligated to give him a chance and I continued to keep tabs on him since I saw his talent as a singer. Many years after the event passed, I soon began to see his buzz rise and I finally understood where his creative direction was heading. Following the passing of his close friend in a car accident T-Rell survived in, it inspired the song that ignited his ambitions and popularity. "My Dawg" and its remix featuring Lil' Boosie was the indication of just what I could expect from the singer.
Get Used to Me is the confirmation of T-Rell's sound and mass appeal. The project is a compilation of tracks that embody his determination to make it in this industry for the sake of his kids and the love of creating music regardless of the naysayers. The feature list seems to prove he's well on his way to make it out of the city as he has many hood superstars supporting him (i.e. Boosie, Kevin Gates, Montana of 300, Kirko Bangz). The production is radio ready and could easily be spun on urban radio making his potential rather high. I would recommend giving this a listen if you're a fan of artists of the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Tory Lanez, & PARTYNEXTDOOR. Unfortunately, this is a style that I don't listen to regularly unless I can find something I can relate to or find entertaining about it. In conclusion, many of these tracks have hit potential, but I personally would only return to "I Got To".
The Storm - Tech N9ne
(Genre: Rap/Alternative Hip Hop/Rock)
Tech N9ne is the independent juggernaut who many near the Kansas City area admire whether musically, business wise, or both. I'm no exception, being exposed to his music during my preteen years through Absolute Power. I reached the point to anticipate his yearly output once Everready dropped. Being one of the most consistent emcees, I continue to expect a certain level of lyricism, range of topics, and relative soundscape from Tech. This can be a turn off for some listeners, but I personally enjoy seeing the yearly expansion of experimentation in each project.
The Storm is no exception to this DLC-esque style of releases from Tech N9ne. With this album, Tech pushes his inventive flows and patterns over more hard hitting production whether it's haunting hardcore rap, metal influenced hip hop, club bangers, or hood hop. It's split into sections (a common Tech N9ne practice) starting with Kingdom going into Clown Town and ending at the G Zone. Each section transition without a hitch just as the eclectic mix of features also blend smoothly. The way Tech N9ne is able to be the true "Most Known Unknown" draws in names like Logic, Jonathan Davis of Korn, & even Boyz II Men.
Even though he is able to be sonically versatile, I still wouldn't recommend this to just anyone, because I also never like every single song on a Tech project due to his wide spectrum he explores. The Kingdom section will contain the most commercially viable tracks like "Erbody But Me" & "Get Off Me". Yet, his honesty lyrically might be what's appealing in songs such as "Starting to Turn" & "Poisoning the Well", both in the Clown Town portion. If you're into hood tracks then in the G Zone, your songs might be "Buss Serves" & "No Running to Your Mama". It all depends on your preferences, so I always say to go in with an open mind and then take your pick. Ultimately, my picks would be along the lines of "Godspeed", "I Get it Now", "The Needle", & "The Long Way" from the deluxe version.
RTJ3 - Run the Jewels
(Genre: Alternative Rap/Hip Hop)
The emergence of the Run the Jewels duo instantly had me hooked. The incredibly hard, yet unique beats El-P produced with him and Killer Mike trading bars over them were infectious. The first project had punchlines galore with impeccable flows. RTJ2 provided that alongside even more concepts. The anticipation of the third installation grew as we waited patiently for more of this duo's unmatched synergy.
Now that it's here, as it was dropped on Christmas as a surprise, us Jewel Runners all cheer in satisfaction. El-P and crew continued to bring instrumentals that is perfect for the festival energy they've started to become accustomed to. Yet, Killer Mike and El-P spread their sound to include more topics, namely socio-political statements due to the chaotic year 2016 has been for our society. This addition of serious subject matter is easily welcomed as it comes naturally for both emcees and never detracts from the energy their projects have managed to exude. The combination of both rappers differing, yet compatible styles is easily recommendable for those who love wittiness, banging beats, and an occasional conscious message. I wouldn't take away anything from the tracklist, but some standouts for me would be "Legend Has It", "Stay Gold", "Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)", "Panther Like a Panther", & "Everybody Stay Calm".