A$AP Rocky – LongLiveA$AP Album Review!

A$AP Rocky is a New York rapper that gained a lot of attention from his mixtape, LiveLoveA$AP. This mixtape featured very atmospheric, reverb filled beats, and this had not been done in the mainstream before. He brought this production to the forefront, and is now used by many other MC’s. His lyrics and flow were mediocre however, and it was his unique production that kept him afloat.

Fast forward to the end of 2012, where his debut studio album, LongLiveA$AP, was leaked. I didn’t want to review it at that time, as it seems kind of… disrespectful. Nothing against others that did though. So it’s finally the release date, so here are my thoughts!

The first thing I’ll say is that I would split this album into two parts. One part features the slow, atmospheric beats of his previous mixtape. The other half features big name rappers and a fast and furious beat. The way he structures the album, it really works.

He opens with the title track. It’s a very unique beat, with vocal samples and reverb soaked drums. From the outset, you can hear that his flow has gotten a hundred times better. It’s faster, and is much more fluid. When it reaches the hook, it segues into this finger picked, clean guitar, with a falsetto singer. It sounds pretty good, and is on my good list.

After that, it’s his first single, Goldie. The production by Hit-Boy is impeccable. It sounds molded for A$AP Rocky, spitting a fast, swag filled rap. The hook is sung by A$AP, in his deep voice. It’s extremely catchy, with some clever lines too.

Then he has a song featuring ScHoolboy Q titled PMW. This song has decent production, nothing too special though. At this point of the album, it’s apparent that this album is what one would call, “Sophisticated Ignorance”. This song talks about, well, pussy, money, and weed. However, the execution is done expertly, so the lyrical content can be forgiven. Also, ScHoolboy Q spits a really nice verse.

The next three tracks blend together so much that I forget when the tracks change. LVL, Hell, and Pain have very similar production style, and not a good thing either. They aren’t unique enough production wise, as the lyricism cannot stand on its own. However, I will say that if you liked LiveLoveA$AP, you’ll love these three tracks. They just didn’t work for me.

Onto my favorite three tracks on this album.

Fuckin’ Problem ft. 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar is an amazing track. It’s fast and fun. Sophisticated ignorance at its best. Drake has the best verse, K Dot seems out of place, and 2 Chainz has a catchy hook. What could be better?

Wild for the Night ft. Skrillex. I honestly thought this track was going to be a dud. C’mon, dubstep and rap? However, Skrillex was reserved enough to make an amazing beat (that I understand to be a remix) that A$AP Rocky can rap over. It’s frantic and captures the energy of going willd.

1 Train. This will go down as one of the greatest posse cuts in hip hop history. The beat is immaculate and classic, the features are mind blowing, everything just falls so perfectly into place…except A$AP Rocky’s verse.

After that is the disappointing Fashion Killa. It’s another ignorant track with a decent beat. It’s hook is extremely annoying, at least to me. The lyrics are even more generic, making this track extremely forgettable.

Phoenix and Suddenly are the first introspective songs on the album. Phoenix is over a very subtle, understated beat, allowing A$AP Rocky to really talk about deeper things. Suddenly talks about how he feels about his sudden rise to fame. I love how he digs a little bit deeper, and it’s a great way to end the album.

Overall, it’s a very good album. The way he structures it is a rise and fall of tempo and energy. There are a few skippable tracks, but they’re mostly good. A$AP Rocky has really grown as an artist, and I’d love to see what he does next.

Overall: 7/10

Hollywood Undead “Notes From The Underground” – Album Review

I’ve been listening to Hollywood Undead for a while, since they first dropped their debut, “Swan Songs”. It was a fun gimmick for a while, a bunch of emo boys rapping over rock/rap beats. However, it wore out its welcome very quickly. Songs became annoying, their voices got whinier, and I moved onto to greener pastures.

Their second album, “American Tragedy” was a bit better, but it still suffered from the same faults. Terrible flow, Mediocre lyrics, and lackluster production. There were only a few tracks that shined on that LP, especially “Bullet”‘.

 

Now let’s move onto the subject at hand: Notes From the Underground.

Let’s just say that getting a new singer hasn’t changed much. He sounds about the same as the previous lead. The hooks are much better than previous outings though, like on the song “Dead Bite”. The hook is really catchy (even if the lyrics make no sense to the song).

The songs I like out of the 11 are as follows: Dead Bite, From the Ground, and the first half of Pigskin.

“Dead Bite” has a pretty cool intro, with distorted guitars that also play throughout. The verses aren’t well rapped, but they are very catchy. The hook is good, as mentioned above.

“From The Ground” has a piano intro that randomly segues into a fast guitar riff. This also happens after the verse, over some screamed vocals. I love the screams at that part, but they last approximately 5 seconds. Then comes a decent, generic hook.

The first half of “Pigskin” is a fun club song that meanders into stupidity. It starts out playful, but then all it does is repeat the same thing over and over. It hurts my brain. Also, it probably has one of the worst lines ever. EVER.

so much swag.

“I’m so icey, I’m like ice cream.”

no. just no.

So the bad tracks. Well, basically everything else. I don’t want to do a track by track review of the other ones. They basically consist of:

1. Terrible production that sounds like they spent about 20 minutes on FL studio.

2. Terrible lyrics that could be written by an 8th grade, wanna-be rapper.

3. A ridiculously bad flow. like. so bad. 

4. An incredibly cheesy hook that doesn’t fit in with the band’s image of “oh yeah, we wear masks, we’re so badass.” 

I know that they’re trying to blend a sort of pop-rap with a pop-punk style, but they fail so hard. They need to focus on bringing all of the elements together more cohesively, and less amateurish. For example, rap artists usually have songs that are very braggy. However, these braggy raps are usually peppered with very personal things. The personal things don’t have to be depressing, introspective things, just personal things. That’s why rappers have such unique and memorable personas. They rap a certain way, talking about a certain thing, having their fan base get to know them. On the other hand, rock songs have a more general feel to them, allowing for interpretation. Rock songs usually have a deeper, more philosophical sense to them.

What Hollywood Undead does is rap, but with very general lyrics. All of the “punchlines” or brag raps is meaningless if we don’t know anything about them. The rest of the album consists of either “I’m so depressed” or “Man, I’m cool” in the most general way possible. I guess what I’m trying to say is that they should all get a personality. Make the flows different, make the lyrics unique, not just saying “I feel like there is a lion inside of me.” Like. What the hell?

All in all, this album was not a fun listen for me. I wouldn’t say it’s torture though, because torture lasts long. This album is 11 tracks, so it’s a lot quicker, like a bullet to the head.

Overall: 3/10 

Zero Dark Thirty Movie Review – Bigelow does it again

Before I start this review, let’s just say that I will not be focusing on all of the controversy surrounding this movie. I want to focus on what makes his film good, and not have any outside influences change my opinion.

SO ANYWAYS.

Zero Dark Thirty is the (supposedly) true retelling of the hunt of Osama Bin Laden. It isn’t a documentary, it’s structured like a film. However, I would label this movie as a fictional documentary, as the characters don’t really have backstory. The sole focus of Zero Dark Thirty is the story of how Osama Bin Laden was captured.

As I said, the characters of this film do not really have a personality. They’re more like pawns used to tell the story. You don’t come to feel for any of them. With that said, the cast is wonderfully acted, despite the wooden writing. The cast is so star studded that I can’t even begin to name them all.

I love this picture.

Jessica Chastain is the central protagonist propelling the story. She plays a CIA agent that has hunted Bin Laden almost her entire life. She is headstrong and stubborn. Chastain does a wonderful job, and is completely deserving of her Golden Globe win. She plays the character with such fire that you sympathize with her when she is down on her luck.

Onto the plot. The movie spans ten years, starting from 9/11 to the day Bin Laden is killed. It is structured almost perfectly. It will show how she finds a small clue in 2003, then it’ll jump 3 years to the next clue. The way the movie works is that you can see the common thread. You see how one thing leads to another, and to the eventual downfall of the Al-Queda leader. Even though the first two hours is a lot of talking and searching, it is still very tense and interesting.

The last two hours are intense. The Tier One team moves slowly and quietly, doing their job efficiently. Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t resort to a big action scene. It is very reserved, just like they did in real life.

There’s not much more to say about Zero Dark Thirty. It is perfectly crafted, well acted, despite the lack of character. It might bore the general audience, but if you love movies, you should go see this!

Overall: 7/10

Link

New Justin Timberlake Single! “Suit & Tie ft. Jay-Z”

I’ve given this a few listens. It’s an old, worn out type of R&B that we’ve heard before. It is walked over by the likes of Frank Ocean or Miguel. The instrumental is so mashed together. It sounds very amaterish. It sprinkles a few horns throughout the song, which tries to give it a classic feel.

I love how the song changes tempo like three times. Catches me off guard, and maybe not a good thing. The other negative thing about this song (and I never thought I’d say this) is Jay-Z’s verse. LIke, really? A slow flow with mediocre lyrics…

“All black at the white shoes
White shoes at the black shows
Green car for the cuban linx
Gotta sit back and enjoy the light show”

This isn’t what Jay-Z is known for.

Oh well, I’m really excited for his new album anyways…

Gangster Squad Review – So much potential, squandered.

Okay, before I start this review, I wanna talk about something (that I’ll probably expand to a full blog post later.)

I want to talk about expectations. Now, when I first found out about this movie, it looked magnificent, mostly due to the all star cast. This cast is a cast from heaven. Heavy hitters like Nick Nolte, Josh Brolin, and Ryan Gosling, and the up-and-comers that haven’t quite made it big yet, like Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena.

The movie is like this picture. It looks pretty, but not genuine.

Looking at the time period and subject matter, I was really pumped for this movie. I recently watched The Untouchables and L.A. Confidential, and those movies were AMAZING. Gangster squad looks like its in the same vein as those two, so expectations were high.

Then I found out that it wasn’t really a genuine, gangster flick. It was more of a “contemporary period piece”, if that makes sense at all. The only thing that’s from the period is the way they dress. It’s also full of a lot of stylish action set pieces. After I pulled my expectations back from L.A. Confidential to something like Fast Five, the movie became very enjoyable for me.

SLOOOWWW MOTIONNNNNNN

Alright, let’s dig into this movie.

The cast, as I mentioned before, is amazing. However, the characters they display are so generic, it sometimes seems that this movie is a parody of gangster flicks. Josh Brolin, the straight edge cop that doesn’t fall to corruption, (A theme that is really good for these kinds of movies, but is relegated to one sentence in Gangster Squad.) Ryan Gosling, the lady killer, Robert Patrick, the badass old guy, Nick Nolte, the proud police chief, Emma Stone, the girl trying to get out, etc. The actors are trying to hard to breathe life into these one dimensional characters, and only a few succeed. I’d say the best performances were from Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling.

Oh, and how could I forget Sean Penn. Sean Penn plays a very exaggerated villain, that yells and screams and is supposed to be scary. Honestly, I really liked him because I could tell he was having a lot of fun with his role. I didn’t mind the make up either, he was playing a big bad wolf villain after all.

The dialogue, oh dear lord. The lines are written in a very modern way, so it completely takes you out of the movie. They don’t speak like they’re in the 50’s, they speak like they’re in 2013. Also, you see glimmers of hope that Gangster Squad will dig into a more meaty subject than “KILL EM GOOOOOOD”, but they disappear after a sentence.

“What makes us different from them?”, asks Giovanni Ribisi. It brings up the rash and violent behavior that the gangster squad is using, just like Mickey Cohen. It could let the characters change throughout the movie, showing a significant arc. However, Josh Brolin basically says, “because we have to!”.

you made zombie land! C’MON.

Another line is “War teaches you how to kill, not how to live.” This is also another really good theme, because many of the characters in this movie were previously soldiers of WWII. It could touch on the psychology of their actions, but the next scene has him putting a billion holes into gangsters with the typewriter.

Gangster Squad’s identity crisis is essentially its downfall. One scene has slow motion, stylized, Zack Snyder action, then the next has Josh Brolin telling his wife everything is fine.

guns, guns, guns, and more guns.

One of the crew or cast said this about Gangster Squad (I don’t remember who). They said that in each decade, there was a gangster movie that defined the generation. Godfather, L.A. Confidential, The Departed, etc. He said that Gangster Squad was this decade’s defining gangster flick. I’d say he’s about right with this. This movie does represent our generation’s ADD when it comes to film. Fast, stylish action over a substantial plot.

In the end, it’s a very fun action movie. If you want to go out with your friends, and need something with a lot of explosions and guns, this is the movie for you. If you’re looking for a more substantial gangster flick, watch some of the classics.

FUN FACTOR: 9/10

GOOD FACTOR: 5/10

Overall: 7/10

^ movie in a nutshell.