Nicholas Molinaro is a sophomore Theatre/Political Science major. He is an avid fan of rap and Hip Hop. He was ridiculously good at spelling bees in middle school, placing 5th in the New York Regional Spelling Bee. He works at KPOET Radio because he is passionate about music and loves to write about it.
Album: There’s a lot going on
Artist: Vic Mensa
Record Label: ROC Nation/Def Jam Recordings
Recommended Tracks: “16 Shots”, “There’s a lot going on”
There’s alot going on by rap artist Vic Mensa, is a powerful, passionate, and eye-opening album that brings the listener in with beautiful, flowing rhythm and through the hard edges of the spat-out lyrics, changes the way one sees the world. Vic Mensa’s iconic style shines through in a unique way with each track, and there is truly something in the album for every kind of music listener. While it is an album that’s the audience is anybody and everybody, its creation, and identity is absolutely African American, as it deals with the struggles of being a black man in America today.
“16 Shots” is a painful and emotionally complex reaction to the murder of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year old African American teenager who was gunned down by the police. The police confronted him after he was walking down the street with a 3-inch folding knife. He was shot 16 times. The officer who shot Laquan, Jason van Dyke, was found guilty of murder on October 5, 2018. “16 Shots” reverberates the echoes of the terrible event against the walls of Black dignity in America. The outrage and anger felt by the black community bounces off of Vic Mensa’s voice and pierces the listener’s heart, telling all those willing to hear of the pain felt by the event. The song has a slow build up with a monotonous beat in the background, gradually building up in intensity and pain until it crescendos in the chant, counting out the gunshots felt by all those around America: “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11, F*ck Twelve! 16 shots!” The song drifts out with the recorded police report of Laquan’s murder, describing in a cold, monotone voice the grisly details of the event, leaving the listener in the midst of the track’s totality.
“There’s alot going on”, the track by which the album got its name, is the pinnacle of the album and Vic Mensa’s outrageous ability as a rapper. Another heavy track, the song narrates Mensa’s rise to fame and subsequent descent into addiction, depression, drug abuse, and domestic violence. The beat of the track is blazingly brilliant, taking advantage of reverberating voices and perfect companionship with the text. Every single word Vic Mensa spouts is supported and elevated by the beat; making the brutally honest lyrics seem to come from some demigod whose voice is above the realm of humans. Vic Mensa’s Dantean, twirling descent is capped off by his attempted suicide in his own recording studio. Then there’s a shift: the beat gets lighter, the lyrics become brighter, and Vic Mensa tells us of his conquest of depression and addiction; showing us the path to the light and out of the darkness.
There’s alot going on is an album for everybody. The tracks provide a universal gust of wind that takes the reader out of reality, and, when it brings you down to earth, the world just doesn’t seem the same. The tracks mentioned touch such grim subjects as murder, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and systemic racism; but this is in no way true for the entire album. Vic Mensa also provides his listener with a variety of dope tracks with a mix of varying beats and colors. Some great songs to give a listen if you are looking for something lighter or to play in the background during a gathering, try “Liquor Locker” and “New Bae”, which are also popular. With this diversity in style and universality in its message, Vic Mensa’s album is a piece of art for any group, occasion, and listener. I give this album an absolute 5 out of 5 rating.
Album: The Last Rocket
Record Label: Capitol Records
Recommended Tracks: She Gon Wink (feat. Quavo), Lead the Wave
Takeoff is a popping, truly killer album that is perfect for hang sessions with your friends or a long drive by yourself. There is truly no weak tracks in the entire album, and each song has its own distinct quality to it. That means there is a track for everybody in this album, and any rap fan should take this album for a listen. It is a pretty short album, just hitting 30 minutes in total. While this is mostly Takeoff’s individual effort, it does not stray all too much from the tracks Migos (the rap group of which he is a member) puts out. Along with the casual rap fan, this is a perfect album for Migos fans who want to hear more of Takeoff’s smoky voice stand on its own.
She Gon Wink is only the second track of the album but maybe one of the best. It has a pretty chill beat, and the lyrics rise to the top and grab our attention. Takeoff’s and Quavo’s natural voices do most of the work for this song, and they do a great job. Takeoff and Quavo, of course, make up two-thirds of Migos, and so this song is very similar to many of the tracks they put out as a group. Migos does seem, however, to have a winning formula for songs they put out, and this one with just Takeoff and Quavo is no different.
Migos has put out truly addictive songs that have defined their group- Fight Night, Stir Fry, Walk It Like I Talk It, etc. Lead the Wave has a real possibility of being added to that group in the near future. Unlike She Gon Wink, this track has the beat as its foremost player, which is the very first thing you hear in the song. Anybody who even remotely liked what Migos has put out in the past will fall in love with this track. The amazing beat is only complemented by Takeoff’s voice and rhythm. His raspy voice stands on its own and shows everybody just how capable Takeoff is in supporting a track, and even an album.
The Last Rocket is an album that does not stray too much from the traditional Migos formula but has a bigger takeaway. Takeoff is his own artist, fully capable of producing compelling music without his buddies Quavo and Offset. It is not an indictment of the other two in any way but is rather telling any critics or skeptics that Takeoff is not just riding on the coattails of his group members. For the new rap fan open to all that rap has to offer, to Migos fans that want to see Takeoff take off by himself, this album is a must-listen. I rate this album a very respectable 4 out of 5.
Album: Everybody’s Everything
Artist: Lil Peep
Genre: Hip Hop/Rap
Record Label: Columbia Records
Recommended Tracks: LA to London, When I Lie
Lil Peep was an American rapper, singer, and songwriter who was born in Allentown Pennsylvania and raised in Long Island, New York. He started his career on SoundCloud in 2014, releasing his own songs. He began to gain notoriety for his mixtapes, as well as his collaborations with Lil Tracy. Lil Peep suffered from severe mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and depression, and as a result, was a heavy drug user. On November 15, 2017, Lil Peep died as a result of what would later be identified as an accidental overdose from fentanyl and Xanax, two weeks after his 21st birthday. His first compilation album, Everybody’s Everything, was released on November 15, 2019, by Columbia Records, exactly two years after his death. The album was announced on November 1, 2019, which would have been the rapper’s 23rd birthday. The album is a strong mix of catchy tracks and searingly emotional expressions of pain and anger. It is an album that showcases Lil Peep’s talent, as well as his emotional and personal struggles.
LA to London is a fun track with an awesome beat that is truly representative of good times and chillin’ vibes. This song can be listened to anytime anywhere, no matter the setting or the vibe. It is one of those tracks that can be listened to on a morning jog or in a car with friends during a road trip. The track also features Gab3, whose verses complement Lil Peep’s perfectly. The entire track is a testament to Lil Peep’s musical talent and skill and is an overall catchy and upbeat song.
When I Lie is a real contrast to the other tracks like LA to London as it is emotionally much heavier and the beat is not uplifting in the slightest. Every moment of the track is weighed down with emotion and raw feeling. The track goes down a relationship Lil Peep had with a mercurial woman who faced drug addiction. The song brings the listener down the whirlpool of hate and hurt that resulted from the relationship as well as Lil Peep’s lies. The track is not just representative of how deep and emotion Lil Peep is able to be with his music, as it also shows how duplicitous Lil Peep is as an artist. Lil Peep’s voice on this track is starkly different than his voice on many of his other tracks and is a sign for many that he was still developing as a performer and adding to his game before his death. This track is not just a symbol of what Lil Peep was, but of his potential and the future that may have been in store for him. Lil Peep’s Everybody’s Everything is a very strong album with a wide variety of tracks for every listener. It is an album that is great for both those who are familiar with Lil Peep as well as those who are not familiar with his work and are looking for an introduction. The entire album is a testament to Lil Peep’s range, ability, talent, and potential. If you are a fan of Lil Pump, Lil Tracy, or Juice WRLD, you will appreciate the music on this album. I give Lil Peep’s Everybody’s Everything a strong 4 out of 5, and is an album I personally recommend.
Album: i don’t care at all
Genre: Hip Hop/Rap
Record Label: bbno$
Recommended Tracks: on god, gone
bbno$ is a Canadian rapper, singer, and songwriter from Vancouver, British Columbia. He rose to prominence with his collaborations with rapper Yung Gravy as well as his track in 2019, Lalala, with Y2K as his producer. His latest album, i don’t care at all, was released on November 8, 2019, with bbno$ acting as his own producer and record label. The album is reflective of its title, being extremely laid back and lowkey. It is the sort of album your friend who lives in their parent’s basements would put out if they were actually musically talented. It is an album with a variety of tracks on it, the majority being very lowkey, short, and catchy bops. If you are in a lighthearted mood or are trying to get into more of a lighthearted mood, this album is a great choice to give a listen.
My personal favorite track on this album is “on god”. The track’s strongest feature is its beat, which is strong out of the gate. The beat starts out slow and prodding along, then picks up with the introduction of the vocals. The song also features Lewis Grant, who works in perfect tandem with bbno$. The song is almost in a state of juxtaposition, as it is energizing with the catchinees of the beat but the rate at which the beat hits you is so slow and controlled it produces a calming effect as well. It is an interesting track to listen to and can be enjoyed by yourself or could also easily be added to a playlist for an upcoming party or group gathering.
“gone” is a track that is slow and trippy, that is a real contrast from the rest of the album. It is a heavily doctored song, but the beat is not overly-produced or odd sounding. The song has a great beat that is catchy, but not the type of catchy that makes someone want to jump out of their seat and start dancing. It is a song that allows you to get lost in the beat, sink into the chair you’re sitting in, feel the room around you and lose yourself in that feeling. By the end of this track, you might feel like you are in a state of suspension- levitating just above the things in the room you’re in. If you are in the mood to be carried away by a track and to get lost in the feeling it gives you, this track is perfect for you.
“i dont care at all” is a great album with a wide spread of tracks on it for everyone to enjoy. The theme that runs through the entire album is the lack of effort and composition of the tracks-rather allowing the songs to be defined more by a natural rhythm or melody than a rigid structure. If you enjoy rap/hip hop in general, or more specifically the work of Yung Gravy or Y2K, then you should definitely have a good experience listening to this album. This album gets a respectable 3.5 out of 5 rating from me.
Album: Feet of Clay
Artist: Earl Sweatshirt
Record Labels: Ten Cressida, Columbia Records
Recommended tracks: EL TORO COMBO MEAL, 4N (feat Mach-Hommy)
Earl Sweatshirt is an American rapper and record producer hailing from Los Angeles, California. He has risen to prominence since the debut of his first mixtape, Earl in 2010. Feet of Clay was released on November 1st, 2019. The album is short in length, with most of the tracks being only around 1-2 minutes in length. It is an interesting album with many twists and turns but provides an overall enjoyable journey. If you are in a relaxed, lackadaisical mood and looking for an album with strong instrumentals to help kick back, I would highly recommend this album.
EL TORO COMBO MEAL is a track that starts off with a strong hook that immediately draws the listener into the song. The strong piano and drums come through at the top of the track, and Earl’s voice sounds like it’s coming down from a higher dimension and lays itself all over the bass. A straight symphony is produced, and what comes from that can only be described as an almost out-of-body experience that runs through your bones. It is a track that will mellow you out, and the suspended sense the track gives you will make you tempted to keep hitting the replay button again, and again, and again. The track is not just a great experience, but a perfect example of Earl’s natural rhythmic verse as well as the strong beats that often accompany his tracks.
The beginning of the track 4N has a strong techno overtone that perks up the ear. The bass gets deeper and slower, taking up a larger part of the song. The rest of the track feels like you’re listening to a track in reverse, with the sounds of rewinding constantly in the background. The slow baritone quality of this track makes the verses flow like molasses and gives the listener the feeling they’re slowly sinking into the seat they’re sitting in. This track plays with the quality and feel of quicksand, slowly and strongly dragging you down deeper and deeper into the beat. This is another track that is great to listen to not just for the catchiness of the track but the experience it provides in listening to it. If you are looking to mellow out or to enhance the feeling of your chilling out, this is a great song to add to a relaxation or even study time playlist.
Feet of Clay is a dope, easy-going album with a variety of strong tracks with awesome verses and strong instrumentals. It is an album to listen to if you are either relaxed or trying to get relaxed. It could be very well enjoyed by yourself as a personal experience, or with other people in a group setting. It is for these reasons that I give Earl Sweatshirt’s album, Feet of Clay, an impressive 4.5 out of 5. If you’re down for a laid back, dope experience and/or a fan of Tyler, the creator, Kanye, or Vince Staples, give this album a listen.
Album: Jesus is King
Record Labels: GOOD Music, Def Jam Recordings
Recommended Tracks: Use This Gospel, Selah
Kanye West is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, and fashion designer. His music has included a vast array of styles, being influenced by hip hop, soul, baroque pop, electro, indie rock, synth-pop, industrial, and gospel. Ever since his debut album, The College Dropout debuted in 2004, he has been a monolithic presence in modern rap, hip-hop, and culture and industry. His newest album, Jesus is King, was released on September 27th, 2019. The album reflects Kanye’s own spirituality and his return to Christianity. The tracks on this album are all deeply invigorating and soul-grabbing, stirring a feeling of a higher power in any person listening. You do not have to be a Christian or spiritual person to enjoy and benefit from this album. Kanye uses a variety of music styles amongst his tracks that invoke spirituality and power in different ways that showcase his musical talents. Any person who goes into this album listening with an open mind and heart will benefit from it immensely.
Selah is a track that starts slow and reminds one of gospel music the moment it is heard. We then hear Kanye’s iconic voice come over the track and the beat start to pick up. We are then greeted by a large and rising chorus that overtakes the song and erupts into a spiritual chant. Kanye’s verse takes turns with the chorus back and forth until the track is over. The track finishes somewhat abruptly, leaving the listener with a slightly jarring and uneasy feeling. The song is seemingly mysterious and mystical and can leave the listener somewhat confused after finishing it. The picture gets even broader, however, when we take into consideration the meaning of the title- Selah. Selah is a word used 74 times in the Hebrew Bible—seventy-one times in the Psalms and three times in the Book of Habakkuk. The meaning of the word is unknown, though various interpretations of the word exist. As the psalms have also been sung as well as read, the word selah has historically been used to signify a beat or pause at the end of the song to signify the place of an “amen.” This is likely to be what Kanye is referring to on this track, yet the song feels as mystical and sensational as the unknown origins of this ancient and holy word. The track is an interesting one for anyone to listen to.
As Use This Gospel begins, we are greeted with a repeated blaring sound. Kanye’s voice comes into the picture, supported by a new beat and chorus to back him up. The blaring sound continues in the background as the rapper Clipse comes onto the song. He trades verses with Kanye until we get a break in the beat for a beautiful and powerful saxophone solo. The song ends shortly thereafter. The song has an added meaning and purpose when the blaring sound is identified as the sound a car makes when a door is left open. This is to signify Kanye’s return to Christianity after his car crash in 2004. This song does everything right- it is both catchy and beautiful, light and emotionally charged. It is a testament to spirit and new beginnings, and one of the album’s strongest tracks.
Jesus is King is a testament to Kanye West’s musical genius and ability to incorporate multiple genres of music for one concerted purpose. The album is about Chrisitan spirituality, and one does not need to be a spiritual Christian to feel the power and emotion behind the tracks. I give this album a resounding 5 out of 5 rating.
Album: Scary Nights
Genre: Hip hop/Alternative hip hop
Record Label: RCA Records
Recommended Tracks: Big Ben, I Wanna Rock
G-Eazy is a rapper from Oakland, California. His debut album, These Things Happen, debuted in June of 2014. His newest release, Scary Nights, was put out into the public in 2019. It is an album that showcases G-Eazy extremely well, with the majority of the tracks being a strong hook paired with G-Eazy’s verses. It is an excellent album to listen to if you are looking for an introduction to G-Eazy and his style. Scary Nights is also a great listen if you’re looking for a few tracks to kick it back to or to jam with.
Big Ben is a fast-paced track that is fun to kick it to if you are in a high mood. It has an extremely strong hook that can be noticed as soon as the song begins. We first hear the guest artist, Prime. His verses are slow and methodical until they begin to pick up in pace with the beat, and his voice shines through cleanly. The beat gets boosted as G-Eazy starts his verse, which shifts the song’s beat into an even catchier rhythm. This song demonstrates both G-Eazy’s beats as well as his strong vocals and is a great jam to listen to if someone is in the mood for a bop.
I Wanna Rock is a track that is also centered around a strong beat that showcases G-Eazy’s rhythm and verses. The beat is the first thing one notices when they start listening to this track, and it is obvious why G Eazy made this call. The beat is extremely strong and is by far the best attribute of this track. It is both high-paced and centered giving the listener an interesting and enjoyable experience. G Eazy’s verses over the beat only add to the listening experience, and they match perfectly with the beat. The track is a bonified bop, and it would be very hard to find a person who couldn’t kick it to this song. If you are looking for something to jive to, or are looking for a song to add to your Halloween party playlist. G Eazy is a strong artist and his album Scary Nights is a good representation of his work and ability. If you are someone that is looking for a good October-vibe album or an introduction to G Eazy, this album is great to listen to. I would recommend this album to anyone that enjoys the music of Big Sean, Eminem, or J Cole. I would rate this album a respectable 3.5 out of 5.
Album: Keep Going
Artist: Mike Posner
Record Label: Universal Island Records
Recommended Tracks: Come Home, God’s Lottery
Mike Posner is a singer-songwriter, poet, and record producer. Posner’s career started in 2010, with his debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff. Keep Going is an album about Mike Posner’s mission to walk across America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. His walk had to be paused in August of 2019, due to Posner being bitten by a rattlesnake. The album is representative of his walk and of Posner’s new phase in his own life. The album starts with an introduction track, in which Posner asks the listener to listen to the full album in its full 52-minute entirety uninterrupted, with undivided attention. It is a deeply emotional testament to the human spirit, and in my opinion, Mike Posner’s request should be fulfilled by the listener if they wish to enjoy the album the way it was meant to be listened to.
“Come Home” is a passionate track with a strong instrumental section that can remind one of spirituals or gospel music. The lyrics read to pair with the instrumentals, sounding long like a long confessional. The song is a reflection of the past for Mike Posner, as well as a reflection of his identities and self-image. The track is reflective, considerate, and singed with pain and regret. Despite this, the song carries a deeply hopeful and optimistic emotional undertone, and anyone listening cannot help but feel uplifted. If you are looking for a song to listen to when you are in a rough place, of just in the mood to be introspective of the past, this song is an excellent choice.
The first thing you notice when listening to “God’s Lottery” is the catchy and upbeat bass section that guides the song. The lyrics seem to levitate over the beat, with Posner’s voice sounding like it descended from the clouds above us. The song was contributed to by Elohim, whose vocals match the song perfectly. The song, although being happy and upbeat, expresses emotional and deep gratitude for life. Posner is saying in this track that, despite his struggles and challenges, he believes he’s won God’s lottery and is grateful for the life he has. In a way entirely different from “Come Home” this song uplifts and inspires the listener.
Mike Posner’s album “Keep Going” attempts to more than just an album, it seeks to be a full experience that encapsulates a heroic journey, not just from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but from the past to the future. The album not only contains deeply emotional and heartfelt tracks but words of wisdom and sage advice from people close to Posner, from his mother to Steven Tyler. If you are into EDM/Rap music or enjoy listening to Avicii or Blackbear, “Keep Going” is a great album to give a full, uninterrupted listen to.
Artist: Summer Walker
Album: Over It
Record Label: LVRN Records
Recommended Tracks: Fun Girl, Girls Need Love (feat. Drake)
Summer Walker is an up and coming singer-songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia. Her music style is best described within R&B and Soul, and Walker says she takes inspiration from Amy Whinehouse, Jimi Hendrix, and Erykah Badu. Her first commercial mixtape, Last Day of Summer, released on October 19, 2018, and her debut studio album, Over It, premiered on October 4, 2019. The album showcased Summer Walker’s voice, beat, and style, serving as her introduction as an artist. Summer Walker is a truly talented artist that has a unique style which is sure to translate into future success in music. On a rating scale, I would give her album Over It, an impressive 8.5 out of 10. This generous rating is a result of the album being a bop-filled, diverse, and overall groovy. The album is a diverse template with catchy tracks and emotional narratives, and truly has something for every kind of listener.
The seventh track on the album, Fun Girl, is one of the more emotionally deep and illuminating tracks on the album. The song is about a relationship of Summer Walker’s, and the double standard that exists between men and women. The slow, melodic track explores a relationship in which Summer loves her partner for being who he truly is, but he does not love the honest version of her. Summer Walker is forced into the position of always being the “Fun Girl” because she is not considered the traditional “wife material”. To others, Summer cannot be a serious option because she is as active and open in her sexuality as men are, including the partner she is with. But even though her partner is sexual with other women, he does not face any of the same social repercussions as Summer does. The song conveys Summer’s hurt, heartbreak, and turmoil. Fun Girl is a beautiful and honest track.
The last track on the album, Girls Need Love, is my favorite for the entire album. It, like Fun Girl, explores the sexual double standard between men and women but draws attention to the fact that women need comfort and love in the exact same ways that men do. While men in the traditional gender role can assert their sexuality and their needs openly and without fear, Women enjoy none of these same privileges and many times do not feel comfortable to even admit they have these needs. The song is light and flowing, showcasing Summer Walker’s beautiful voice by accompanying it with a rich bassline. The song also features Drake, who has a fantastic set of verses that pairs with the song perfectly. Drake also acts as a male ally who provides his experience and point of view. This song is perfect for someone trying to get into their feels or just trying to unwind with a catchy melodic song.
Over It is a fantastic album with a wide array of songs that range from catchy bops to emotional centerpieces. No matter what kind of music you typically listen to or what kind of mood you are in, there is something everyone can enjoy and relate to in Summer Walker’s Over It. If you enjoy Ella Mai, 6LACK, or Stefan James, I would highly recommend Summer Walker, and specifically Over It, to you.