Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP2

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I was ten years old when Eminem stuck his middle finger up to the world with The Marshall Mathers LP.  To people who said he could never make it in hip-hop because he was white.  To naysayers who called him a never-will-amount-to-anything piece of white trash.  To his absent dad, his child’s mother, his English teacher, and his dope-head mom.  He didn’t give a fuck, God sent him to piss the world off.

And here we are, 13 years later.  Eminem is eight albums deep in his career.  He’s experienced inconceivable success, scandals, law suits, drug issues, recovery and finally, a full circle return in the form of The Marshall Mathers LP2. 

And me?  Well, Em and I have sort of lost touch.  I admired him for not giving a fuck.  I loved the way his witty lyricism hopped jumped and skipped through this maze of beats.  How he challenged himself at every turn.  How fast can I flow on this beat?  How much can I offend mainstream America?  Like he got off on the image of mothers covering their sons ears, begging him to stop bragging about slitting faggots’ throats and raping women.  His subject matter thrilled me.  Like the thought of running away for a night just to see how my parents reacted.  Or saying a swear word in sixth grade social studies to get a gasp out of the girl next to me.

But I’m twenty-three now, and honestly,  MMLP2 doesn’t really do it for me. Sure, Eminem exercises his renowned lyrical abilities.  He can spit as fast as Twista, tell graphic tales, and make hilarious allusions to current events all in one verse. But thirteen years later,  I no longer get a thrill from hearing about women being drowned and violently fucked, and frankly, It’s hard not to cringe from the image of my childhood idol breaking a table “over a couple of faggots backs.”

Now–before I get slim-shady’s fan group all riled up into thinking I’m some oblivious, easily offended critic—I get the whole alter-ego thing.  I understand that Eminem doesn’t actually believe all these things.  That slim shady is his evil rapping twin persona that was born to see how easily he could offend sensitive ears.  That Eminem actually supports gay rights, probably respects women, and has done his best to raise his daughter to believe the same.  I get it.  I just think the act is exhausted, and find myself asking: why?

Why is Eminem so angry? He’s not the same twenty-seven-year-old who had something to prove.  He’s a successful rap icon, self-proclaimed rap god who has earned a spot on most everyone’s list of top-ten MC’s alive.  Why does he find it necessary to rekindle the flame he sparked at the beginning of his career, revisiting the same subject matter, hunger, and angry-menace attitude? The very persona that earned my respect as a young fan of hip-hop has me at a loss, wondering why a forty-one year old mogul hasn’t really changed at all.  What was once an impermeable confidence now comes off as a desperate desire to prove that this middle-aged man still has his old tricks.

When I think of Eminem’s peers, rap icons like Jay-Z and Kanye, they’ve matured in ways we couldn’t have perceived at the start of their careers.  They’ve grown into icons who have learned how to revisit their past with more reminiscence than full-fledged embodiment.  Who can brag about how far they’ve come and how much they’ve learned with a newfound maturity, and a worldly awareness of what they represent in the world hip-hop.

The intro to “Rap God” really says it all.  We hear a comic book, Wu-Tang-esque voice : “Look, I was gonna go easy on you and not to hurt your feelings, But I’m only going to get this one chance.”  As if this is Slim-Shady’s only chance to prove something to the world.  Prove what?  That he can still portray this misogynist, homophobic persona?  That if he doesn’t do that, he’s going easy on us? Eminem hasn’t hurt my feelings, he’s just left me disenchanted by his range of material.  In thirteen years, he hasn’t found a way to prove his dominance in the rap game without bragging about sexuality dominating women?

He begins to acknowledge this lack of progress in “Asshole.”  In the last verse, he spits:

Only women that I love are my daughters

And sometimes I rhyme and it sounds

Like I forget I’m a father, and I push it farther

So father forgive me if I forget to draw the line

It’s apparent I shouldn’t of been a parent I’ll never grow up

 Eminem embraces some self-deprecation here, revisiting the self-criticism that has always added an admirable complexity to his music.  But at this point in his career, the wheels have fallen off.  Slim’s don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that made him so appealing in his early work feels different now.  Like he’s trying too hard to be careless.

I’ll still spin “Till I Collapse” on my heavy rotation and hell, I think MMLP2 has some great lines, killer flows, and stadium beats.  I still think that Eminem is a hilarious, complex rap icon who has filled a necessary hole in hip-hop.  His ability to paint horrifying pictures and embody a range of characters is unmatchable. It’s easy to see how his music has inspired a new generation of rappers–Odd Future, Kendrick Lamar, and Yelawolf to name a few.   Perhaps that’s why, as much as it pains me, I’m being so critical of my childhood icon.  Because, thirteen years later, I expected more from a rapper who is fully capable of doing so.

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Acid Rap: Chance The Rapper’s Good Ass Job

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The first time I heard Chance the Rapper’s voice, it was on the intro to his latest mixtape Acid Rap, appropriately titled “Good Ass Intro.”  With this perfect blend of joy, rasp, and charisma, Chance interrupts the gospel-swoon background to announce: “We back, and we back, and we back….”

I knew, after only ten seconds, that this was a man who was happy to be alive.   Ecstatic that he’s finally emerging as a new voice in hip-hop.  Thankful that he can financially support his mother.  And by the end of the song, confidently content that: “this your favorite fucking album and ain’t even fucking done.”

In a style that many rappers attempt but few can master, Acid Rap is full of self-praise. It’s a “Good Ass Intro,” he’s done a “Good ass job,” he’s “better than I was the last time,” it’s your “favorite fucking album,” that includes “your favorite song, you just don’t know the words.”

Sure, he’s tripping balls on acid right now, but can you blame him?  Chance is alive, he’s not in jail, and he has emerged as one of the best new rappers on the scene, thanks to his original sound, hilarious ad-lib, well-chosen sampling, and witty lyricism.  Coming from a city that tallied more deaths than Afghanistan last year, I think he has the right to rejoice.

But as all acid trips go, there’s a handful of loneliness, mistrust, and abandonment on Chance’s mind.  On “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” he yearns for familial affection, looking back on his childhood days when life was simpler; his family was close, and he wasn’t afraid to hug his grandmother without putting visine in his eyes, or get a kiss from his mother without reeking of cigarettes.

But Chance is grown up, now.  Despite burning up a fair amount of his brain cells, he’s still cognizant enough to recognize the tragic stench of death in his hometown.  On “Pusha Man,” Chance takes us “to a land where the lake made of sand, and the milk don’t pour, and the honey don’t dance and the money ain’t yours.”

It’s not the Israel that God promised Moses–try Chiraq.  And if you’re patient enough to wait through the silence following “Pusha Man,” you’ll be rewarded even more tales of fear and murder and crooked cops on the mixtape’s secret track “Paranoia:”

They merking kids, they murder kids here

Why you think they don’t talk about it? They deserted us here

Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here

Probably scared of all the refugees, look like we had a fucking hurricane here

Really, though, where the fuck is Matt Lauer?  While The Today Show is busy reporting on the latest fashion trend, or interviewing a rescued white girl, there are hundreds of young black men dying from gun violence in our inner cities.  While school shootings are mourned across the nation, inner-city schools provide the only glimpse of shelter for many of today’s youth.  The media spotlight has consistently avoided the tragic genocide and mass incarceration of black teens.

But who needs Matt Lauer when we have Chance the Rapper.  He’s here to report that, while he has successfully escaped the dangers of his hometown, his peers are dying from Chicago’s summer heat:

And I ponder what’s worse between knowing it’s over and dying first

Cause everybody dies in the summer

Wanna say ya goodbyes, tell them while it’s spring

I heard everybody’s dying in the summer, so pray to God for a little more spring

This third verse in “Paranoia” is as telling as it is haunting.  It’s springtime, and the summer is approaching, so he’s saying his goodbyes.  He’s already accepted that hundreds of his city’s youth, and probably a handful of his friends, will die in the coming season.  He’s heartbroken.  He’s perplexed.  But he’s brutally frank.  If only spring could last forever, perhaps Chicago wouldn’t lose another hundred teens.

Acid Rap is much more than a blissful hallucination.  We see Chance bounce seamlessly between pure joy and sadness.  Between mourning and thankfulness.  Paranoia and confidence.  We see the duality hidden in the life of a newly successful black man.  A man who can’t help but rejoice in his triumph, but refuses to forget the calamity he has narrowly escaped.

I’m excited to hear what Chance has to offer in the future.  He’s already established himself as a thought-provoking, innovative artist in an industry full of rappers with a get-rich-and-brag mentality.  For now, I think we can certainly reaffirm Chance’s claim.  So far, he’s done a good ass job.

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Magna Carta Holy Grail: Jay-Z and the Significance of the New Black Elite

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When Jay-Z released his twelfth studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, I wasn’t in the right mindset to assess it properly; honestly, I don’t think any fan of hip-hop was.  I had just been on a bizarre trip to the land of Yeezus, where I was shouted at, crooned to, and scolded for my white privilege.  Of course, as soon as Magna Carta dropped, the inevitable question of “which album is better” arose.

“They’re different,” was my concrete answer.  Albeit lazy, this was the only response I could muster at the time.  Why do we feel compelled to compare two albums with completely different aspirations? When I started this blog, I didn’t aim to post reviews rating albums as good or bad.  I don’t make top-ten lists of tracks or artists of the year, or God forbid, “best rappers alive.”  MTV can have that role.  I created this blog to make a space for assessing the cultural value of hip-hop music, not to tell the world that I think J. Cole’s Born Sinner scored a 7.

That being said, I understand why Magna Carta scored poorly among critics.  After a couple weeks of spinning the 40-minute explosion that was Yeezus, full of angry critique of modern day racism and consumerism, Magna Carta felt like a repetitive drag of a work.  Aside from a handful of tracks that flaunt vintage Hov–somewhereinamerica and Picasso Baby are clear favorites—there are several songs that I find myself wanting to skip through when I listen through the album. But honestly, I’ve felt the same about Blueprint 3, American Gangster, and even Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life. 

Jay-Z has never set out to make a concept album that was meant to be listened to from start to finish.  Rather, Hov’s main goal, from the birth of his rapping career, has been to make money and consequently rap about it.  Lather, rinse, and repeat.  Despite these moments of repetition that appear in every Jay-Z album in recent memory, we can still find value in the  broader implications of Jay-Z’s catalogue, and furthermore, his iconic persona in the American cultural sphere.

The fact that Jay-Z has reached elite status in American society from bragging about selling large amounts of drugs is significant in itself.  His success completely revamps the American dream, tearing down the traditional model of going to college, working a 9-5 salary job, moving through the ranks and so on.  When Jay-Z was a youngster, that dream wasn’t readily available nor attractive to young black men like himself, and we haven’t made much progress in to improve upon that reality for today’s black youth.  In truth, today’s black men are consistently hampered by racial profiling and the war on drugs, suffering through poverty in homes without fathers and schools without adequate funding.  Not much has changed, and therefore, Jay-Z’s success remains a glaringly relevant slap in the face to the worn out, unrealistic, and nearly unattainable “American dream.”

If you can’t understand why a black man who rose from poverty, bragging about how his daughter can lean against a Jean Michel Basquiat painting because it is hanging in his house, is culturally relevant, then you must reassess your awareness of American race relations.

To criticize Jay-Z for rapping about his newfound elite status, as if it were in some way separating himself from his roots, would be ignoring the significance of his upbringing in the first place.  Jay-Z is not responsible for spelling out the significance of his success as a black man in America, although he does just that quite eloquently, with the help of Dream Hampton, in his memoir Decoded (If you haven’t read it, I suggest you add it to your summer reading lists).

As my favorite author Zadie Smith writes in her New York Times profile of Shawn Carter, “The House That Hova Built:”

“Asking why rappers always talk about their stuff is like asking why Milton is forever listing the attributes of heavenly armies.  Because boasting is a formal condition of the epic form.  And those taught that they deserve nothing rightly enjoy it when they succeed in terms the culture understands.”

Aside from making a poignant comparison between Milton and hip-hop, Smith highlights the importance of Jay-Z’s braggadocio throughout his career.  No, he doesn’t scream at white America for modern day racism, or make public outcries about President Bush being racist.  But his ascent to elite status as a black man in white America still carries profound cultural value.  For me, that’s much more important that discussing whether Magna Carta deserves a spot in 2013’s top-five albums list.

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Review: Kanye West’s Yeezus

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We were halfway through the curriculum in my Revolutionary Milton course in my senior year of college, and the next item on the reading list was none other than Paradise Lost. My professor–a wise, humorous, and blunt woman who has read the epic 12-part poem countless times—had a proposed method to tackling the literary giant.  “Pour yourself a glass of scotch at dusk.  Open the book and start reading.  Don’t stop, and take your time on the liquor.  You’ll be done with the poem by dawn.” I know, you’re probably wondering why I started a review on Kanye West’s Yeezus with a nerdy English major anecdote about reading 17th century poetry. The point is, I wanted to hear this thing from start to finish.

Yeezus isn’t one of those albums that you skim through, picking out songs that might earn spins on the radio, or certain tracks you think you will hear at the club.  Like every Kanye West work, modern-day concept albums, Yeezus is something you need to listen to all the way through while you attempt to process 1) what the hell he’s talking about it, 2) Where you recognize this or that sample from, and 3) if you even like it or not.

Well there I was, pouring a glass of scotch, waiting for the Yeezus leak to download in my iTunes (Forgive me, but I bought it on Tuesday).  The album certainly didn’t take me an entire night to finish, but by the time the last track, Bound 2, came to a close, it only felt right to start over again.  By the fourth listen through, I was buzzed; from the scotch, sure, but I was more intoxicated with cycling thoughts on how to digest the album.

Yeezus is one, continuous assemblage of cacophony; a ten-part thread of self-assured fury, cynical blasphemy, and raw sexual destruction.  Amid this dark, vicious blend that puts Kanye among music’s greatest rebels–Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and Ministry to name a few—West manages to mix political protests against racism and consumerism with silly one-liners about impatiently waiting for croissants at a French bakery.  Compared to the symphonic greatness of Kanye’s last album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus is completely stripped of pop choruses and flashing lights.  Kanye must have been offended by Twisted Fantasy’s commercial flop (he should be, it was the best album of 2010), so he ditched all efforts to satisfy radio’s hunger for mainstream pop.

What emerges is a more confident, twisted, politically roused reinvention of 2008’s 808’s and Heartbreaks. And just like the mainstream’s initial reaction to 808’s, Kanye fans expecting to hear anything reminiscing College Dropout or Graduation are in for a surprise.

Yeezus’s  best track, “Blood on the Leaves,” circles around a racially charged  Nina Simone sample about lynching.  Just when you think Kanye is gearing to spit a manifesto on present-day racism, he picks up where he left off on Gold Digger” to vent about money-hungry women and gloomy relationships doomed by pregnancy, all of this on top of a bass-breaking sample from TNGHT’s “R U Ready.”  That’s when you know, to quote Yeezy, “something strange is happening.”

Speaking of strange, there’s “Hold My Liquor,” featuring Chicago’s own gangster child Chief Keef and indie icon Justin Vernon on the same track.  Whereas we know Chief Keef for his cocky, glock-slinging songs of rebel gang violence, he appears on this track as a sad rapper grasping for control in the spotlight of newfound fame.  Alongside Vernon’s trademark crooning, the duo produces a depressing chorus to parallel Kanye’s drunk escapades of car crashes and one-night stands: “Late night organ donor/After that he disown ya/After that he’s just hopeless/Soul mates become soulless/When he’s sober it’s over.”  While Kanye seems, at times, fully in control of his patented antics and self-glorified proclamations, he stops here to admit his imperfections in one of the album’s scattered moments of self-destruction and guilt.

For critics shouting blasphemy, twisting religion isn’t something new for Ye.  This is the same guy who came into the rap game shouting “Jesus Walks,” and penned the line “make a nun cum, make her cremate, yeah.”  “I Am A God” is next in the catalogue, as Kanye claims his crown as “the only rapper compared to Michael” before he has a conversation with Jesus about stacking millions.  While the track surely touts greatness, Kanye is not nearly as cocky as you might expect from the title.  Instead, we find him burdened with his iconic power, struggling to convey a message of truth to an audience of doubters.  He doesn’t exactly hide the Christ parallels.  The album is called Yeezus, after all.

“New Slaves” gives us the album’s most politically fueled verses, which is perhaps why Kanye chose to project the song on a worldwide platform (both on buildings and on his live SNL performance).  Here’s a world famous icon throwing present-day racism, in form of controlled consumerism and mass incarceration, into the crowd of countless white spectators.  It might be aggressive.  It might be angry.  But it is certainly not false.

Kanye decides to close out the album with its most Kanye-esque track, “Bound 2,” with his patented soulful repetition, clever comedic punches, and an angelic Charlie Wilson bridge that comes out of nowhere.  This far from a coincidental ending.  After an album’s worth of rule-breaking rebel rants and civil-rights-laced sex scenes, he steps back into his comfort zone to remind us that he can still reach back to his old College Dropout self, even when he’s exhausted: “But first, you gon’ remember how to forget/After all these long-ass verses/I’m tired, you tired, Jesus wept.” The point is, Kanye can break endless boundaries, step out of his own trends, take rap to weird, seizure-like levels, and we’ll still be bound to his music, his story, his life’s work.

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Drake: The Controversial Icon of Hip-Hop

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It never fails:  every single time I tell someone that I’m into hip-hop, they ask me the same question: “What do you think about Drake?”  For being the smooth-talking, hook-cooking, hit-shitting icon that he is, Aubrey “Drake” Graham seems to be the most controversial figure in hip-hop.  Maybe it’s because we knew him first as the kid in the wheelchair in Degrassi (although no one seemed to have a problem with Will Smith when he started rapping).  Perhaps it’s because his ascent to stardom didn’t fit the traditional rapper’s come-up—growing up in the projects, dealing drugs on the corner, gaining ‘hood’ recognition, then rapping about it-.  Drake never did all that, but he maintains this odd cigar-smoking, wine-sipping swagger that makes you think he just inherited 20 million dollars and needs to spend it all in a week.  Then he throws in some sensitive, thoughtful spoken word poetry at the end of “Headlines” and you sit there wondering if you like it or not; and if you even like Drake, or hip-hop, or cigars and wine.  This is all very confusing, but it’ll be ok.

But to answer your question, I love Drake.  I love that no matter how many people question his authenticity as a rapper, he keeps making catchy music that gives me goosebumps the first time I hear it.  I love that, no matter how many people question his sexuality because he has the balls to talk about his relationship flaws with women, he stays as honest as they come.  Drake treats his music like a compiled diary of broken hearts and bitter ex-girlfriends and crazy nights with his friends. He has a way of putting his problems into catchy verses that make you understand exactly how he feels. I find myself empathizing with this multi-millionaire on a daily basis.  Maybe a comparative essay touting Mr. Graham as the 21st century beat poet is on the way. But anyways…

The only problem I have with Drake is that he signed to Young Money when he could’ve been just as successful on his own.  I was afraid he would plateau as the resident hook-maker for the YMCMB clan. Granted, while he does just that for Birdman, Weezy, and the rest, Drake remains entirely unique in his albums.  You see, Drake takes his music career much more seriously than anyone’s opinions, and the best rappers out there understand him and respect him for that.  Then our friend Aubrey releases a hilarious video like this and reminds us that despite his intense aura and life full of problems, he has quite a sense of humor:

Much like the “HYFR” video, “Started From The Bottom” has this jarring balance of non-chalant partying with friends, and Drake strutting around in front of his crew, taking himself as seriously as the Pope on Easter.  What the video says, to me, is that Drake is entirely comfortable with himself, enough to go prancing around in grocery markets with his white friends without worrying about what the haters might say about his legitimacy as a rapper in a genre full of thugs and ex-convicts.  No, Drake doesn’t care about that. He just surrounds himself with his genuine friends, swirls his Pinot Gris, and enjoys the view from the top.

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Album Review: A$AP Rocky’s Long.Live.A$AP

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“Uhh…yeah….Uhh…yeah:” That’s the distorted voice of A$AP Rocky, slowly vibing to his own music, and presumably feeling the mind-twisting effects of codeine syrup in his bloodstream.  And although our friend A$AP might not be able to think clearly at the moment, he does his best to assure us, in his debut studio album LongLiveA$AP, that he is most certainly alive and well.

LongLiveA$AP has all the essential components of a rap album these days; several features from other promising rappers, copious amounts of drugs, money, and women, and a never-ending celebration of another day in the life. A$AP’s mentality is fairly simple: having been “baptized in the gutter,” living a childhood of fatherless (and sometimes homeless) poverty, the Harlem rapper has sufficient motivation to boast his newfound riches in his 24th year on the planet.  As he boasts in the opening track with the same title as the album, he “thought he’d probably die in prison,” a mindset prevalent in inner-city communities, where young black men can call themselves a success if they haven’t been incarcerated or murdered by the age of 21.

Enough of the politics, though, A$AP isn’t really about that.  He’s more concerned with bragging about his successful lifestyle, regardless of the fact that he continues to practice habits, according to his verses, that could very well put him behind bars. This gun-slinging former drug dealer has a remarkable knack for making his self-proclaimed immortality as nonchalant as humanly possible.  Almost as if his accumulated riches and women up to this point in his life have left him perfectly content with dying tomorrow.

LongLiveA$AP doesn’t exactly surpass what we’ve come to expect from A$AP and the mob.  He’s never been known to confine himself to a New York Style, and continues to prove his versatile sound.  There are a handful of fantastic tracks, including the album’s first single “Goldie,” what Rocky describes as a “jiggy” song that blends California carelessness with southern syrup and bit of New York nasty.  The album’s ninth track, “1 Train,” is its heartiest track, featuring some quality verses from Kendrick Lamar, Joey BadA$$, Big K.R.I.T., and Danny Brown.  Yelawolf and Action Bronson also stop by the studio to add their side dishes to the braggadocios potluck.  The track is so heavy with the features that it doesn’t really need a hook, becoming a cipher of quite a variety of rappers, all of which stay true to their own style.

“Fuckin’ Problems” has all the characteristics of a radio single, complete with a 2 Chainz hook, a fairly typical verse from Drake, and Kendrick verse to seal the deal, or as he puts it, “yeah hoe, this the finale, my pep talk turn in to a pep rally.”  “PMW (All I Really Need)” features the witty syncopation of Schoolboy Q, interrupting yet another distorted hook with a UGK-esque melody floating in the background.   We get some surprises with a Santigold hook on “Hell,” and Skrillex brings his unmistakable scratching sounds to “Wild for the Night” for a party anthem.

As a whole, the album relies heavily on its features.  “Phoenix” is the only memorable solo effort from Rocky, as the rest of the tracks dissolve into a forgettable vibe, like vague memories from a night filled with codeine; we reach a point where it’s hard to tell one “uhh…yeah..” song from another.  A$AP Rocky will never be known as a solo artist, forever associated with the A$AP Mob and the rest of his rapper friends.  As always, his future success will depend on who he chooses as his peers.  For now, he’s made great selections, calling in other young promising rappers, Kendrick, Schoolboy and Joey BadA$$ for example, to spit witty lines and flows that he isn’t fully capable of producing alone.

Although LongLiveA$AP certainly isn’t the best album to emerge from hip-hop lately, it gives us a couple catchy tracks and shines a light on Rocky’s newfound success. Perhaps A$AP Rocky is a networker of sorts, calling his friends together to celebrate another day in the life with some codeine and a few “uhh…yeah’s.”

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A Serious Case of Cabin Fever (Two!)

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While the hip-hop world awaited the release of Wiz Khalifa’s debut studio album Rolling Papers, the Pittsburgh rapper was hard at work; Wiz assembled his crew of Chevy Woods, Juicy J, and a few others, and decided he was hungry for more than pop success. What emerged, Cabin Fever, was a collection of bangers. The 9-track tape was Wiz’s proof of his consistent ability to make money with pop hits, while grounding his fan base with complementary mixtapes. Featuring the freshly-surfaced producer Lex Luger, Cabin Fever embodied the raw, careless feel that Wiz’s veteran fans had waited for since the days of Prince of the City (1 & 2), Star Power, and Flight School. 

The mixtape was as unexpected as it was satisfying for the TGOD followers who smelled the Rolling Papers sell-out pop feel from a mile away. Cabin Fever was certainly no Kush and Orange Juice, but for Wiz, it was his chance to jump on the Lex Luger wave, and show the doubters that he could still make beats you can play in the hood. It wasn’t long before we heard “Taylor!, Gang!, Taylor!, Gang!” shouted in the streets.

Cabin Fever is, by definition, the “extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.” The mixtape boasts the Taylor Gang’s newly caught fever.  Trapped in the studio with Bombay Gin and their essential ounces of weed, the crew clearly had an itch to show their critics that Rolling Papers wasn’t all that Wiz had to offer. “Black and Yellow” could have its radio play, while “Phone Numbers” could have its own underground space.

So, two and half years later, when Khalifa announced the release of Cabin Fever 2, fans of the Taylor Gang built up the same excitement that came from the mixtape’s predecessor. We thought that Wiz, who grew in two years into somewhat of a pop-idol and expectant father, was back to his old formula.  Anticipating his second studio album O.N.I.F.C., CF2 gave his hungry fans something to satisfy the TGOD munchies before finding out if Mr. “Ink My Whole Body” could make a quality album.

To much disappointment, the sequel to Cabin Fever shows more of a belligerent, burnt out sickness than the itching fever of the original tape.  Not only does CF2 lack the Lex Luger production that was often the crutch of Cabin Fever, but the silly, confident, catchy lyrics are gone as well.  Wiz is much less the boasting, upbeat rapper on the rise; instead, he’s a wasted celebrity, stumbling into tracks and rambling out of them.  If anything, we can tell that Wiz has been spending way too much time with Juicy J.

There are some bangers—don’t get me wrong—but not nearly enough to tide a loyal fanbase over until the release of O.N.I.F.C., no less build any excitement for the album.  “Ridin Round” has a nice vibe with the appropriate Juicy J. feature.  “100 Bottles” and “Stu” stand out for their upbeat braggadocio.  But as a whole, the mixtape lacks consistency, and is too often dampened with Wiz’s drunk and high mumbling.   

The only hope here is that Wiz responds with a stellar follow-up album.  O.N.I.F.C. has some promise, and we heard on his Taylor Allderdice mixtape released earlier this year that our pot-head pal wants to return to his roots, responding to countless critics who labeled Rolling Papers as a disappointing, sell-out album.  If O.N.I.F.C. lives up to the Taylor Gang hype, Cabin Fever 2 will be merely a drunk memory, a weekend’s worth of partying too hard in the studio.  For now, we just know what happens when Juicy J brings too much gin.

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