"TWO EYES" X KING DRAFT

Originally Published June 12,2018

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Draft has returned, and apparently to reclaim his crown as the King after a very quiet 2 year hiatus. King Draft released his 4th studio album just days ago on his birthday, June 14th. Similar to all June releases by Kanye’s label, G.O.O.D Music, oddly King Draft’s album only has 7 tracks. When asked if that decision was a result of the the Kanye’s influential power, the rapper said “We (he and Producer, Jerm Scorsese) had the idea for it years ago. Not even being funny (LOL). It just became cool”. The album is entitled Two Eyes.

Overall the album is a sequel to the artist’s earlier works, adding key points  of social injustices and obstacles to his thesis, funneled into how his outlook has been changed by them. Just like a funnel, the subject of refocus (emphasis on “re”) does not become crystal clear until the closing track “2 I’s”. The title alone gave me an inkling of the project being centered around the idea of  two versions of himself, crucified and resurrected. King Draft later expanded on my initial thoughts, clarifying “(It) is two different perspectives of your (own) life. You’re living your life, but you’re also replaying it constantly, analyzing decisions you made; sometimes you spend too much time analyzing and not living.” Relistening, it all makes sense; Draft has a way of interchangeably telling stories from different point of views. “Make Sen$e” is told from all viewpoints, the moral being the importance of practicality during the pursuit of vision, and he foresees vibrantly. Again, elaborating, the the artist states “It’s about making sense of your situation. Most people at this age are winging it, hoping it works out. Hoping they can survive off of what they’re doing”. And the lessons don’t stop there.

Two Eyes differs in Draft’s level of maturity from his earlier works. The two year time lapse has brought Draft into a new quarter and allotted him wisdom. His maturity is evident in how the Hip-Hop lyricist recaps loved ones’ deaths (literally and figuratively) as a result of gang violence. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Draft tells progressive love stories which end in marriage-- a milestone the public has not known the artist to achieve. Notable music references include Tweet’s “Oops” on “Catch My Breath” and Mary Jane Girls’ “All Night Long” on the track “Matrimony”, just to name a couple. Sounds of many era’s can be heard throughout the album with the inclusion of different drum styles and string tunes by Executive Producer, Jerm Scorsese. This album also includes more features than usual, expanding the musicality of King Draft’s Music. Considering all attributes, Two Eyes is sonically and historically a timeless work of art.

"OMIGOD" X LORD JAH-MONTE

Originally Published on December 28, 2017

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At the top of 2017, Hip-Hop lyricist, Lord Jah-Monte (formerly known as King Callis)  hit the ground running, releasing his sixteen track debut album,TOETS HAAR Skipping, just in February followed by UNBUNTU & You, a 13 track album released in May. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Charlotte-based rapper, originally from Chicago has been working on a 4th album. The third project of the year entitled “Omi God” — Omi meaning “you me” in Swahili, is set to drop sometime today, a day before New Years Eve, and ironically only hosts 5 tracks, all of which remain true to Jah-Monte’s classic hip-hop sound. Like the other two projects released this year, this album is also rooted heavily in the Conscious rapper’s agenda, to spread light and love, “light” being knowledge or “truth”.

The collection of melodic tunes are led by “Touch Down in the Fo/ Cam Newton”, which shapes the overall theme of the album: His Lifestyle, more specifically, his lifestyle during his time in Charlotte. Jah-monte’s lifestyle is heavily shaped by his environment,the hood. This is noted with the mention of activities that usually go on in poverty-stricken areas, commonly due to the lack of employment opportunities, therefore lack of things to do and more importantly, a shortage in income. Rather than not be able to provide for his daughter and her mother, Jah-Monte chooses to “serve fiends” as hinted at in several verses throughout the body of work. This type of behavior has been ongoing, as revealed later in “Channel Wood Village Lords” with the use of the phrase “Five an L” to show just how much times have changed for the Black Market, changes endured personally by the artist. The artist contrasts his current lifestyle with the one he believes people of African decent should have, ideally rooted in African-based Spirituality and Education, which teach history from an African perspective, with the core ideologies that the black woman is God and that most Europeans are “Aboriginals” or “soulless” beings, both term used numerous times and ensure the message is received. This same systematic knowledge encourages the acquisition of Black wealth,  both considered the “type of shit CMS wouldn’t teach us” by the lyricist. In fact, Jah-Monte believes that is the local government’s mission is the exact opposite– to instead acquire what little blacks do have through gentrification as highlighted on “Best Rapper in Charlotte Pt 3”; All of which he are tactics to decelerate Black advancement, the underlying message of the track “Give the Thanks to the Lord.

As if Jah-Monte doesn’t  have a big enough headache, he’s also haunted with the likeliness of drive-by shootings saying “shells going out the window more than Taco Bell” when referencing Channel Wood Village, a neighborhood the rapper lived in for some time and the line “shooting out Grand Caprices”, an act that resulted in his brother serving a lifetime sentence in prison. He’s also plagued with memories of loved ones getting injured. That doesn’t stop the rapper from indulging in his own afflicting kryptonites though, warning it is best not to owe him money with the usage of flashbacks.

Well you know what they say– “they” being dealers turned rappers: “All I need in this life of sin, is me and my girlfriend” (if you don’t know who said that, then wooooow, but Hov aka Jay-Z); the same is true for the lyricist, even with all is rough ways, with all the chaos swarming around him, he has managed to find love which seems to be the only thing drawing him back to Charlotte, a core message in the 1st track. The love he speaks on is not just any love,  it is a Godly one, one founded on the exchange of support and “truth”. I’m assuming a first for the King and his Queen as he describes it as “different” on the track entitled “Mwili Na Nafsi”, which means “Body and Soul” (also the title of the rapper’s first breakout hit about love) and poses the question: “Can this feeling be forever, Love. Me and you together, Love.”

While short and sweet, the highlight of this album definitely would be Lord Jah-Monte’s lyricism. His bars are filled with metaphors, similes, double entendres and alliteration, all over smooth classic Hip-Hop beats. A solid, atypical release by Jah-Monte this late in the year will definitely leave his fans anxious for the new year. 

"YES, I AM A DREAMER" X VINNIE DANGEROUS

Originally Published on December 1, 2016

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It’s been three long years, so it’s only right that hip-hop artist, Vinnie Dangerous, gifts us with a fourth project- on his birthday, I might add. “Yes, I am a Dreamer” Vinnie Dangerous’ fourth all around project and first for-profit album, was released today, December 1st, 2016 . The Album consists of just 8 songs, all of which were produced by the multi-talented hip-hop artist. This project remains consistent with Vinnie’s signature melodic sound, keeping drums at a minimal. Symbolically, the album takes on the role of a, let’s say- crystal ball, showing recaps of unfavorable events and glimpses of envisioned glories. Both help shape an overall tone of perseverance.

The canorous “Imma be” serves as the initial foreshadowing of the album. It also introduces a reoccurring theme of constant collocation of Vinne’s past and future. “Imma Be”( an oxymoron) is the exposition of Vinnie’s “arrival”, which just so happens to reveal his source of motivation—his life. On this track, Vinnie goes in-depth about his origin, discussing his mom’s decision to give birth to him at the tender age of 17, after being encouraged to consider abortion. His existence has always been all the confirmation Vinnie needs to know he is destined for greatness despite the objections of naysayers. The rising action is then initiated with “On my Way”; the track highlights a series of events up until this very point in the musician’s life, with an underlying presence of anticipation for the climax, success. The hip-hop artist goes on to rave about the authenticity of his music, in “Don’t Lie to Me”. Fellow hip-hop artist, Tracy Lamont is featured on the song with a pretty dopeverse alongside some tricky music breaks and cuts for added flare (reasons why this may be my favorite track— Hmm).

Midway, the dreaming takes a back seat to Vinnie’s love life. The plot twist is an indication of how easily distracted Vinnie can become when trying to balance his love for women and his love for music. Though Vinnie’s love life serves as the basis for the song, I’m sure “Hey You” is a song most (if not all) can relate to as it highlights the likely sequence of events a part reigniting an old flame— without the strings, of course. Ironically, “Hey you” is followed by “Love me Right” which represents the reoccurring consideration Vinnie has in regards to establishing a more invested relationship with a woman, despite the various apprehensions brought on by previous relationships or observations.

“Denial” gives reason to believe one of many contributions to said doubt is his inability to trust revealed with the lyric “your girl calling my phone, she get wetter than the nile”. Other denials Dangerous has observed in others include that of himself (musically) and the ways of the world. Vinnie then incorporates a recorded speech of his father speaking on the importance of dreaming to one’s sanity and the accomplishment of goals as an album interlude. He forecasts that the acceptance of his father’s wise words coupled with his tenacity will payoff with musical accolades, such as Grammies and influence. That point will serve as the climax of Vinnie’s story. Metaphorically, the record takes on the name “On Top of the World”– an attempt to embody an unfathomable feeling of accomplishing an ultimate goal. Unlike most glory stories, Vinnie’s climax will remain constant. Once the hip-hop artist obtains his idea of musical success, he wishes to evolve into an entrepreneur, or mogul.

You see “Yes, I am a Dreamer” is the beginning, middle, and end of Vinnie’s existence- before it even happens. He dreamt it (past tense). So all there is to do now is watch said events unfold. How can one doubt his proclamations after  listening to him confidently deliver well written lyrics about all he’s overcome thus far over nice, self-produced (I might reiterate) tracks? You can’t.

"WAKING UP @ 2 PM" X LIL HOMIE GROOVE

Originally Published on October 30, 2016

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Waking Up at 2 pm was released on Halloween by Lil Homie GroovE, a newcomer to the hip-hop scene. The title serves as a metaphor for “growing up (or realizing things) too late”. The project is a refreshing compilation of his intrapersonal perspectives on things such as love and finances from a relatively exoteric point of view. Overall the EP does not have one sound; usually I’m wary of this, but somehow Lil Homie GroovE manages to pull it off, allowing him to appeal to a wider array of listeners.

In Lil Homie GroovE’s commonalities, his content and approach set him apart from rappers with a similar sound. In “Jack Pot” Lil Groove Homie speaks on a very personal experience about– being “curved”. I like this track because vulnerability is made fun. One relatable track is followed by another, with “Broke Homie Dreamin’ Big” (featuring Kaine the Don), a turn up record inspired by his monetary shortcomings and their contribution to his place in this established race to live up to America’s lifestyle standards. “Bentley Coupe” then meshes the essence of Lil Homie GroovE with his evolving self. This is proof that duality trumps all. The second to last track, “Pass the Mic”, is an overview of his life that also serves as his ‘mission statement’, if you will. “Spit yo game” concludes the EP with a common message to that when it is all said and done, one should “roll up”.

All in all, I really like this EP! I am impressed with Lil Homie GroovE’s uniqueness and his versatile flow, considering he’s only one year in. Waking Up at 2 pm is great for those undergoing the shady transition into reality. Though it is not the most cohesive, each song’s replay-ability is great, therefor playlist friendly, which will capture and hold his audience’s attention– critical for building a fan base! Thumbs up.

“Deception”

Originally Posted June 16, 2016

Back in May, King Draft released his 3rd album, and until now has not released anything besides his single “Livin’” which featured KO 5000. Though Draft has been dropping subliminals on his social media, the release of a music video for his second single “Deception” was very much unexpected. As elaborate as the song (/album as a whole) is the video is surprisingly simple and raw; It is the editing (also done by KD) and symbolism that takes the video to another level.

If you are a fan of King Draft’s, you already know “Deception” is ultimately about how blacks have been conditioned to identify with european perception. It discuss politics (of this country and within the rap industry)— hence the video’s ongoing double image theme, one image being black and white, symbolic of  his perception as a black man in America. Draft brings his go-to producer Jerm Scorsese on set for a brief cameo just to show that their relationship goes beyond the deceitful industry. The humbleness stops there; Draft’s  borderline arrogance present in all of his music is very much alive in the “Deception” music video. The Kingdom logo pops in and out as a way to force-feed the idea that Draft is in fact the uncrowned king of hip-hop. He himself displays a modest cockiness when he refers to himself while pointing to the sky, a gesture that is explained later in the song with a KRS sample. Though subtly, KD also reveals the different versions of himself with wardrobe changes— the 1st version of himself being the original King Draft from the streets of Plainfield, New Jersey, 2nd being “woke Draft” and the 3rd being “industry Draft”—  I’ll let you all decipher which outfit corresponds with each  ego. 

Other than that, the video is basically comprised of King Draft vibing out to his music. Again, he manages to simply complexity. Well done.

Live Forever x King Draft

Originally Posted May 5, 2016

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I guess it’s safe to say the rapper-producer duo, King Draft and Jerm Scorsese, pride themselves on publishing lengthy albums, an old hip-hop trend that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just means the quality of work has to be good enough to capture and hold the audience- and in their case, it is. Live Forever is the duo’s, formerly known as The Kingdom, 3rd collaborative effort. It is equivalent to Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 – meaning the body of work is exceptional, but the amount of recognition deserved will most likely follow only after the validation of fame. The album is consistent with No Rest In The Kingdom and Kingdom Come, relaying similar messages and maintaining the “Kingdom Music” sound.

The album is brought in with a funky string bass-line over a smooth 80’s R&B sample– a clear indication of what sound the album will take on. Entitled, “Live Forever”, the first song is symbolic of the mental conversation Draft had before choosing to take a higher road- a road that will eventually lead to the fulfillment of his life purpose. King then has the same conversation with his audience, encouraging them to look beyond their environment or filthy roots, and rise. Following “Live Forever” is a skit that reveals how selective Draft is when choosing with whom to interact. The skit serves as an introduction to G.O.M.F. (Get Out My Face) in which King makes clear that he does not advocate drug dealing and gang banging (like most modern day rappers); he instead plans to sow seeds of pride in the black youth, hoping the seeds will sprout into the rebirth of black empires. For this track, Scorsese ironically reverts back to a more conventional rap sound, incorporating more percussion and a stripped down synth loop. The juxtaposition forecasts the versatility and complexity Scorsese contributes to the remainder of the album, as well as King Draft’s unsettledness.

I think it’s safe to say Draft shares Malcolm X’s “By any means necessary” mentality after hearing “Niggas Dying/Lookin’ Black”. The insertion of Louis Farrakhan speaking on the matter is a successful attempt at ethos, pathos, and logos by Scorsese. At this point, it can be inferred that King Draft identifies as some type of activist with the music serving as his podium.

Draft continues his political rant into the next track “Deception”, which is ultimately about how blacks have been conditioned to identify with European perception. The audience is reminded by a vocal sample of hip-hop legend KRS-One, “The deepest part to being black is being African. The deepest part to being African is being Human. The deepest part to being Human is being God..” Again, Scorsese manages to blend contemporary (needed to appeal to the target audience) with vintage R&B/soul samples and “knowledge breaks”. The album refocuses on motivation, leading to the rising action, “All my Life”, in which Draft is seemingly afraid of his career taking off. His anxiousness leads him to question if he wants a breakthrough for himself, and he does, now more than ever, especially due to the birth of his son. “All my Life” is the 2nd foreshadowing of failed relationships to come due to King Draft’s newfound focus. There is a snippet of Jay-Z’s engineer, Young Guru, speaking on the importance of self-motivation to progression. Again, this is attempt to mentally prepare for what is to come for the duo. Despite Young Guru’s presence, the track gives me a “Moneys Trees” vibe, leading me to believe Scorsese is also a fan of DJ Dahi. The album progresses into “Move”. In the song, J. Safina assumes the role of KD’s female interest. He encourages her to have fun in the midst of progressing. It is also an indirect reminder to himself to do the same, since he has not yet mastered balance.

Finally King Draft does come to understand duality, marrying humbleness and arrogance, referencing Maya Angelou, but as a form of validation instead of comparison. His confidence is due to a growing number of supporters and his faith in God, leading me to believe the song title, “Look Out for Me”, also serves as a double entendre. His faith in God keeps him on the shaky path to success. Draft elaborates on this shakiness, discussing the lack of stability in his personal life on “Win or Lose”, while shedding a different light on the psychological effects of a hostile childhood in “It Be that Way”. King Draft then goes on to reiterate that he is fortunate to be steadily progressing into a position where he will be heard. The retro sound is still very much alive with Jerm Scorsese’s use of The Bar-Kays’ “It Be That Way Sometimes” variation. Contrastingly, “Livin'” is a very modern sounding “turn up” record, underlining the stereotypical lifestyle of a rapper. The theme of “instability” continues with “All I Need” and “Ibuprofen”. The former serves as a humbling ode to his lover, reminding her that in the midst of his come-up, she is still all he needs. Marvin Gaye’s “You’re All I Need” lyrics are incorporated as the chorus. “Ibuprofen” follows, eluding that drugs have been used as a coping mechanism for the stress brought on by tending to his career and personal life simultaneously.

Getting into the last few tracks of the album, “Just a Matter of Time” is the last conversation of reassurance Draft has with himself– once again reminding himself that he does not have to be a product of his upbringing. Jerm Scorsese gives us a preview of what is to follow creating a similar sound to J. Dilla’s Donuts. Scorsese then outdoes himself with the next track, creating an epic (and my favorite) track, “About That Time”. In the song, Draft announces his readiness to prophecy, this time without an ounce of doubt. King Draft then decides to refocus all of his energy into his purpose, requiring him to finally distance himself from negativity. This newfound mindset is expressed by the rapper in the last track of the album, “They”.

So there you have it, King plans to “live forever” through his music. After battling with doubt and oppositions brought on by “They”, Draft has managed to write another album that brings light to the black community. The bold choice in samples is reflective of Jerm Scorsese’s feelings about himself as a producer and King Draft’s as an artist. It is also symbolic how big they are going to be, despite the process of getting there. All in all, they simply did it again. As of now the project is complete and set to drop on Cinco De Mayo. I’m definitely here for it.