Tag > Album Review
We’re in that mood, as Chiino will make clear.
Like it or not, Justin Beiber’s now a Pop staple. In fact, he’s a superstar. It’s as simple as that. So what do all superstars have in their discography, then? Ask Mariah Carey ask Bob Dylan, ask Snoop Dogg – you’re nobody if you haven’t got a Christmas album somewhere in your back catalogue. (Well that’s not all the way true, but you’re following). “Under the Mistletoe” – released in November – brings the 17-year-old into a league of elites, who were brave enough to re-imagine the sounds of the festive season.
With this being the most high-profile solo Christmas release of 2011, Beiber may hold a fair bit of expectation of his shoulders, but – as most are all too aware – X-Mas albums are never intended to be masterpieces. With that in-mind, noticing that he’s lined-up Busta Rhymes, The Band Perry and Boyz II Men come as no surprise; it’s an indulgent record and cohesiveness isn’t at the top of the priority list. After dictating the tone of the album with “Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas”, he sets listeners up for a record bursting with Pop delights (although it may have its cheesy, Hip Hop-infringing elements).
Once he’s gained momentum, and the infectious introductory song has sunk in, the record continues with promise. He begins, at first, with original songs. His teaming with Tricky Stewart and The Messengers is put to ideal use; resulting in tracks which embody the season, whilst moulding a solid bond with his young fan base. Beiber can handle the mellow side, he can cover the loving angle and his youthfulness gives off the impression he still believes that Santa’s coming soon. The combination of these elements come in handy when he attacks “All I Want is You” and creates a potential winter anthem. However, it’s not always effective, as the time when he’s punching above his weight – on “Christmas Eve” (written partly by Chris Brown, who sounds like he should have recorded the track) – makes clear.
After noticing how surprisingly well his Boyz II Men collaboration goes down, Beiber doesn’t disappoint when he links-up with Usher for “The Christmas Song” either. When he sways down the R&B route, he’s precise in his execution and has the swagger to deal with seductive production. It does, however, feel as though some beats were sat in a vault for a decade and were hurriedly forced gathered together when Beiber label demanded a Christmas release. This shouldn’t be much of a deterrent, though, as the rest of the album is largely solid and the only questionable portions of the record are the novelty songs with The Band Perry and Busta Rhymes, where the contrast is too drastic and pushes the music off-course.
“Under the Mistletoe” is a functional release from Justin Beiber. While festive-themed releases are often old-fashioned and rely a lot on the same predictable source of songs, this album is a step closer to modern day. Of course, it still sounds like it could have been recorded ten years ago by any Pop act with a hint of R&B in them – as recent trends are shunned, in favour of out-dated styles – but it’s as close as it can be. Only minor things prevents the album back from its full potential, as the mix of covers and original songs is balanced effectively and he shows all the promise of a young soon-to-be Pop mainstay.
Justin Beiber’s “Under the Mistletoe” gets a musicovered score of 7/10.
“Under the Mistletoe” is out now.
A mixtape has landed. Good job Chiino was there to catch it.
Despite his initial pleas of not being a “sweet boy”, Kano‘s had trouble keeping his word. Since “P’s & Q’s” (although possibly an unfair time scale) the East Londoner’s come a long way. In his time, he’s swamped his past supporters in disappointment, whilst edging ever-further towards through being the critic’s choice for British lyricists. The versatile MC has made 2011 a year to remember, by dropping a collaborative free project with Mikey J (“Not 4 the A-List”) around the time he starred in the Channel 4 ‘Top Boy’ series. Not content with all that, the “Girls Over Guns” mixtape completes his flurry of activity. However, with its female-centric content, has he gone and thrown everyone off his track again?
Opening to the declaration that “It’s a gyal dem ting”, Kano initially dampens any thought of 2011 being the start of his comeback streak. While “Not 4 the A-List” had its moments, solidity on this follow-up sits as his only chance to truly win back his scepital fan base. He does, however, recover from the early off-putting remark, as he then proceeds with mature insights to a loving relationship. Jumping over a Ryan Leslie composition and garnering aid from his new tag-team partner, Scorcher, Kano begins the project with promise.
A few drifts off-topic may come with “Cooked Breaky”, but there’s no reason to doubt Kane. Everyone knew where he was heading with the mixtape so, up to this point, he’s on-track. That same drive, however, isn’t upheld when he continues through the rest of the release. From that point, as the brags creeps in, he dips into cliche territory. “Lethal Weapon” and its faux-aggresive tone sees Kane follow the guidance of Miguel‘s “Quickie”. Quite simply, he doesn’t pull it off and - as proven in “Ms. What’s Her Name” - is far more suited to sweet dedications to girls than he is at demanding sex from them. It’s amongst a few weak portions to a release oozing this promise.
There may be down points, but Kano‘s musicianship enables him to adapt to most of what’s throw at him. At one point he resorts to Bashment turf and jumps on Mavado‘s rendition of “Danger Love Riddim”; doing a decent job at it. Elsewhere, on “High Heels v. Converse”, he attacks “7 Minutes of Funk”; bringing out the innate MC in him. However, the inconsistent nature of the release isn’t held up be the few beasts hidden within it. Also, with all the topics revolving around women, the content comes close to being tiresome and somewhat restricted in its potential. “Girls Over Guns” could even be viewed as a dry response to “Take Care”, in which case, prompting notions that he’s playing catch-up to an artist who’s effectively taken his place. While his albums have an expectation to hold the weight of British Hip Hop (and often Grime) he’s been sidetracked by an aim to cover all grounds, as far as his varied audiences are concerned.
Arguably, the likes of Kane and other Brits (like Craig David) laid the foundations for what Drake‘s known for - the turn-of-the-century intertwining of Hip Hop and R&B - yet this release effort comes across as though he’s in the shadow of American newcomers; forcing him to take on their rehashed style. It may be characteristic of Kano to appeal to the females (after all, would the UK still be talking about him if he never released “Brown Eyes”?) but his distinctive sound only really makes itself known on “Ms. What’s Her Name” and “Cooked Breaky”. Maybe Drake can’t jump on a Mavado tune and sound as comfortable, and maybe Kano does overshadow what J. Cole did to Beyonce‘s “Party”, but how much is this Kano and how much is a declaration to sit in Drizzy‘s chair?
While Grime supporters have essentially campaigned for “Guns Over Girls”, since it’s top MCs all disappeared to seek the charts in 2008, Kano hasn’t had the duty to conform. In doing so, it seems that he’s got out of step. The mixtape was announced to unashamedly capitalise on his recent exposure and, as a result, is geared solely towards a section of his fan base who don’t necessarily care for how much this release skewes his discography. This being said, he’s probably hit the mark – as they all probably like a bit of Drake and Miguel – but Kano could’ve done it all like Kano.
Kano’s “Girls Over Guns” gets a musicovered score of 6/10.
“Girls Over Guns” is out now on free download.
Chiino got tipped towards a release which needed reviewing. Here’s what he thought.
When someone directs you towards their old music, there’s a tendency not to listen with the same ears as you would with their new stuff. After all, aren’t you meant to be improving as you go along? However, when you know you’ve got a stack of music which your ears find inoffensive, why not let everyone take a listen? It’s especially true when you work within a scene which isn’t too reliant on trends, as there’s no reason to let the things floating around on your hard drives go to waste. That was the thinking Deft – an up-and-coming Bass producer from Croydon – was going with, before he unleashed “Before Vol. 1”.
With a brief snippet of The Isley Brothers’ “Summer Breeze” opening the release, Deft sets the context for his work. As a producer, his work owes a lot to Soul-seeking Hip Hop producers and it’s made apparent from the offset. The static-rich project builds its foundations through those core influences and expands towards every other direction within its reach. While it’s difficult to predict where else Deft could take his music from the introduction, this instrumental release becomes a source of ever-braver late-night stairwell anthems.
Consisting mainly of short, punchy tunes, Deft’s 10-track project has the edge of a Hip Hop instrumental release, but based in a style more suited to Rinse FM programming. Within “Before Vol. 1” he’s able to put his own bassy spin on the style, and with his trial and error mentality, regularly hits hard with a few stunning soundscapes. Most notably, the gleeful “A Smile Is” couldn’t reflect its title any more. With a light sample driving the song, behind a deep kick, he treats listeners to a glimpse of the future. Afterwards, he swiftly moves on to explore something new and the release continues in a similar fashion; to impress, then move on while you’re left wanting more.
While Deft comes across as very Croydon in his experimentation, this quality means that tunes like “Stella for Star” can come across as a step too far. Ignoring these far extremes, though, he’s at ease when a track is toned down to the point that his precise percussion and airy synth melodies capture the vision for each song. The uncomplicated sides of the album are where he comes out with his best music and defines his characteristic sound. These expand beyond the songs build solely upon a satisfying loops and into instrumentals where he appears to have more control over the flow of the track (as with the remix to Zero 7’s “Homes”).
His free-minded musical choices have the potential to create a project designed to present his versatility, but it feels constricted and as if he’s withholding some elements from the listeners. However, assuming that this is all old music, as he claims, it makes sense that his recent music seems to have been refined and is more varied. The main points for criticism have already been addressed since, but means that “Before Vol. 1” has minor issues which snag at it being as good as it could be.
There may be a lot of unappealing and predictable music on many ‘lost tape’ compilations, but Deft clearly didn’t want this to fall down into that category. “Before Vol. 1” reveals the Croydon native’s primitive musical years to be as satisfying as today’s. Considering that he’s still trying to get his foot in the door, this throw-together of his back-catalogue does more than enough to convince the listener that he’s primed for big things in 2012 and beyond. Apparently, a second edition is on the way, so we won’t have to wait long to decide if he’s on-track to become a stable of the scene.
Deft’s “Before Vol. 1” gets a musicovered score of 7/10.
“Before Vol. 1” is out now.
Read on for another album review from Chiino.
With his age on his side, being just 19, Mac Miller goes into his official debut album without worry or concern. After all, rappers the age and ethnicity of Mac don’t tend to be taken too seriously by Hip Hop anyway. This being the case, the Pittsburgh native (who also happens to roll with Mr. Wiz Khalifa, a former school mate) decided that “Blue Slide Park” would be an opportunity to shock the masses. Being the first rap act since Tha Dogg Pound to top the Billboard album charts independently, you could say he achieved his aim to surprise in one way, but would the feature-less release have the quality to back up its quick-selling ability?
For those new to the world of Mac Miller, his flow-leeching, nonthreatening naivety in the Rap world is bound to make many question what exactly makes him so special. Perhaps it’s this very thought, that he isn’t anything particularly innovative, which keeps the attention his way. Mac Miller stands like one of the many temporarily chart-riding Pop-Rap artists from the turn of the ‘90s. His approach to rap transports a world filled with artists with short shelf lives (as they hop from rapidly from one trend to another) into 2011. The difference, however, is that Mac can probably keep his hype up for more than 18 months.
Unlike his stylistic predecessors, Mac’s made his mark on the industry by sounding like he belongs here. He’s got a purpose, whereas the generation of ringtone rappers before him were good enough for a hit and a half before they were out the door. So, in order to invest in a more sizable span in the industry, “Blue Slide Park” finds Mac builds himself an edgy sonic identity. His cartoony characteristics come through as he rides the spacey “PA Nights” and develops the strong shell which Clams Casino for “My Team”, whilst still having time to open-up on “Missed Calls” and the introspective “One Last Thing”. But still, is this anything we haven’t heard before?
Mac’s distinctly average qualities struggle to prove that he’s got anything new to present to listeners. His talking points don’t stray too far away from useless brags and frat activities, as he bounces through each track aimlessly. Miller’s purposelessness means he’s susceptible to veering off-track, thus making way for a slew of tracks which are forgettable. He does so in spite of the promising signs that he’s an artist who’s on his way to carving a lane for his sound.
With bars like “We just tryna go bananas like it’s Donkey Kong” floating into his tracks, Hip Hop heads may have trouble warming to that audio vision. “We get it poppin’ like it’s Pakistan, Iraq, Iran”, may not carry much artistic merit along with it, yet he carries the songs with his charisma and willingness to experiment. Judging by the variety in the production, Mac is still yet to find a sound which unifies his work (possibly as all the beatmakers are young up-and-comers) but his rapping dexterity enables him to remain afloat through most of the record.
Although Mac fumbles occasionally (one poignant occurrence being when “Up All Night” kicks into action) he does have the odd track designed to show where he’s heading. For instance, the way he rides the flipped “Let Me Clear My Throat” sample on “Party on Fifth Ave.” marks his daring, yet cheesy, position in the game. However, with so much of the album failing to hit its targets, “Blue Slide Park” crumbles like a marginally-promising demo, where a capable rapper just hasn’t got the right help to achieve his ultimate goal.
From the “K.I.D.S.” mixtape, which put him on the map, to now, Mac Miller has come quite a way. For those who got familiar with him then may be put off by his all out party content, there haven’t been any changes. However, his run-ins with House and Electro, have been replaced with progressive instrumentals, filled with thick percussion and throwbacks to the days of old, to keep it together. One thing which lets it down, though, is its sense of incompleteness. Despite being 16 tracks deep, the amount of filler leaves the listener with a sense of discontent, as the album’s release feels anti-climatic. Oh well; he’s always got next time to improve.
“Blue Slide Park” gets a musicovered score of 5/10.
“Blue Slide Park” is out now.