"it just warmed you up and made you feel as good as church letting out." --Mark Twain

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His music is very friendly, in the sense of how it’s talking to you (the way one might talk to someone known since a child; the way one might talk to a great friend).  He knows he’s crazy, but if you’re crazy enough to listen to him (and take him seriously), you’re going to see this super positive side.  There’s a general underestimation about how clever (and downright wise) Lil Wayne actually is — but he would be the first one to tell you he isn’t a role model (he has literally done this).  Yet, people of every age, gender, race and sexuality find life-altering empathy within the lines of his music — look to a song like “How To Love”, then look at Lil Wayne as he tells (verbatim) how he “isn’t trying to be a role model.”  

Personally, I appreciate that sort of humility, and that’s the vibe I get when I listen to his music.  It’s as if he raps like he owes it to us, unconditionally — even though he’s obviously doing what he wants to do — the non-stop intensity is always a treat.  Every time I see a new Lil Wayne track on the radar, I think: “Oh man, is this going to be my next favorite song?”  To have this sensation occurring this far into his career — this song contains some of the best lines of his entire discography — it says a lot about his dedication to the craft (as the song fades out, Lil Wayne is still freestyling).

Sure, it’s easy to nitpick — to quote a line that’ll offend most standards; but in that process, you’ve glossed over fields of gems, all just to emphasize (what is perceived to be) an ugly side of someone.  So much so, that not only would you miss lines, concepts and ideas, but you would likely not even see the technical artistry of a song like “Krazy”, simply because of pre-existing negativity: maintained, enhanced and validated by focusing on the one or two lines which happen to strike the wrong way.

Even with the knowledge that so many people are going to take it to this very dismissive and even accusatory place, he always speaks his mind, without restraint.  This honesty allows him to explore all potential sides of himself (as an artist).  Because he releases so much of his material, the dedicated fan can piece together a personalized portrait of Lil Wayne and what he represents.

With a particular stream of lyrics and sentiments left throughout his discography, I’ve painted my own impression of Lil Wayne.  This was only possible because he, like any great artist, didn’t hold back his ambition.  Because Lil Wayne, Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., has released hundreds of songs (thus giving me the opportunity to form the impression I have of him through sheer statistics), I would certainly consider him an artist of the highest capacity.

This means ten fans of Tunechi’s tunes in a room have ten drastically different approaches to why they love Lil Wayne’s music as they do.  This is because Lil Wayne has presented at least ten complete archetypes within his vast discography.  I’m sure he’s laid out many more, but I don’t typically share how passionate I am about his, or really anyone else’s, music, unless I’m with the musically-minded.  This is why, online, I share why I like the music I like; because in casual context, I find I’m one of few people, if not the only person, who views it this intensely optimistic. If you want to see it this way, you can, and if not, I don’t have to deal with defending my inherent perspective.

You so crazy.  I know. I know.

Listen: “Krazy

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I’m not sure if it was intentional, but I love how Carnage flipped Kanye West’s “Power” into maybe one of the first seamless + natural hybrids of rap and trap-electronic?  The call-and-response bring-the-bass-in, now drop it out, now do it again — you gotta love it.  I personally cannot get enough.  Migos is riding an unstoppable high and it looks like they’re headed for first.  This song sounds like what must be playing in their heads as they enter into second-place, with the finish line getting closer and closer.

Listen: “Bricks

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This is a single with an important sentiment — sometimes, you must turn inwards, before you can explore the world outside.  You have to have your bearings correct.  Unfortunately, the novelty of the song fades faster than one would like, but it’s still deeply enjoyable — the lyrical message of the song hasn’t been presented anytime in recent memory (with this many people listening, in the context of contemporary rap music). 

Sometimes you have to be on your own, with no one, to really understand who you are.  You gotta turn everything off, get real quiet, and listen close.  Then you can move forward and celebrate with the rest of the party.

Get free: “Mind Right

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I’m torn between whether I should narrate my perceptive history with this song, or whether I should just accept that I have been lucky enough to experience a subjective experience the likes of which its very description will provoke ire and scorn.  What do I do?  I just want you to know that there’s part of me that doesn’t even want to waste time telling of my pathetic subjective perspective taking its sweet time to align with the divine.  I guess I want you to know that this is not a joke, and if you can’t understand that, then hopefully my relationship with this song will provide some clarity:

I’m a rapper.  I’ve made my own music that I’m quite proud of.  I’m not trying to say what I’m saying is justified, I’m just saying this was how I felt, even if it was wrong.  One of my songs, which I also produced, uses a similar percussive aesthetic.  So, while Team Nicki obviously couldn’t have heard my song, the first time I heard it, I distanced myself from it.  The vibe was so similar to a vibe I had gone for, and I guess I just thought that my own music wouldn’t get heard ‘till long after people had heard “Pills N Potions”.

So before I could even join the first impression bandwagon of “that chorus is annoying”, I had already, seemingly irreversibly, distanced myself.  However, I did feel it was “too simple” (in addition to the grating chorus).  Time passed; I listened to Future some more; I made more music; I enjoyed the weather.  One day I was driving home and heard Potions on the radio (to this day my cassette player’s death has been the best thing to happen for my taste since I discovered Warp Records).  Yet the very instance of this song on the radio had triggered another side of the song I hadn’t even noticed.  

With every additional listen I found myself changing my attitude a bit more and more, until I realized I didn’t hate the song at all now.  All the reasons I had ‘hated’ it for had become the very reasons I LOVED it.  It’s funny how that works, and it’s also why one’s perspective is generally irrelevant on matters of taste – you identifying why this chorus is too grating or this vocal is too loud or this is lyric is too overt is nothing more than that, an identification.  How you FEEL about that doesn’t translate to your feeling having been verified with “proof” (via identification).  What you just identified might actually be why another loves the song – so who’s “right”?  You both are and you both aren’t.  It’s okay to not like a song, but it’s also okay to like a song.  Neither perspective is necessarily superior, but one of these perspectives gives you a benefit – a good song to listen to.

While pop can sometimes feel superficial, flimsy and with a bad after-taste, there are always deeper sentiments within “stupid” songs.  Additionally, in the most ‘complex’ music you can imagine, one can still map down the overall vibe of the song to a few, core feelings.  To show the infinite complexity of a few, focused ideas or to embrace the similarities of the complex whole: one approach is intensely focused on detail; the other, conveying the uniformity of all the differences, when zoomed-out.

In-between the simplicity (and the sometimes pandering-aesthetic) of top 40 pop are universal insights into how we feel as a collective species.  While the artists throughout the world vary, the general vibe is a shared one.  What we listen to reflects how we feel as people, so we give our support to those whom best represent these unspoken intricacies.  Though the actual musicians may vary based on geographic and cultural context, the most popular tend to embrace an interpretation encompassing one part of the present mentality.

No matter how many times I go through these revelations, I will still knee-jerk react to new pop songs like “Pills N Potions” — not really giving them the benefit of the doubt.  If you look at what I’ve rated highly on RYM, you’d think I was pretty much always down for top 40 radio, but really, every pop song I love is the result of an intense battle between what I’m expecting music to be and what music actually is.  When I came around to Pills N Potions, after hearing it on the radio and then on my own set-up at home, I couldn’t honestly believe how much I disliked the song at first – my own ego preventing me from evaluating the song with a clear-head (via “Since this song sounds like one of my own, I’m going to pretend this song doesn’t exist”).

This has culminated into a manifesto of praise.  I keep thinking, it is not necessary to share these thoughts.  Even if some haven’t considered them, I think a lot of people have been coming around to this sort of mentality.  From musicians with respect and integrity, and people like your’s truly, and people in general, I’ve been reading and hearing more of the “it’s okay to like pop — even if it sounds ‘feminine’ or the lyrics have nothing to do with my life”-perspective.  Maybe it’s not so much that people ever WEREN’T part of this perspective, but it was the financial and commercial nature, so boldly embraced (in this music video, there are at least two advertisements for Nicki Minaj-related products), that might’ve made it feel downright WRONG to devote even three minutes to its stage; its charade.  You weren’t just going against pop, you were SUPPORTING independent artists, obviously more worthy of everyone’s time…

But if you are thinking about it from a musical perspective, you can certainly appreciate the hi-end world of pop music, proudly on display like a tech demo, in a song like “Pills N Potions”.  It’s not always clear who does what on most Top 40 hits — who’s REALLY the brains behind the song (even with the credits in front of you, it can be tricky to tell unless you actually know how the song/album was made) — but what IS clear is that this represents the thoughts of some very talented producers, songwriters and musically-minded folk in general, in addition to the perspective of Nicki Minaj as a lyricist.

I want you to imagine your favorite band covering this song.  This is where I think you’ll see me eye-to-eye.  It’s a pretty easy sentiment to get on-board with: it’s one of pinnacle; of pending impact.  Yes, there is a teenager in me who appreciates the juvenile novelty of bragging about getting high (via “I get high on your memory”), but the idea of a “high” isn’t necessarily drug-related, though if it is, that doesn’t take away from the high’s authenticity, either – feeling is feeling.  I just like the idea of experiencing something meaningful, yet natural, and this song provides me that.  It builds and builds and by the time it’s about to fade-out, it feels like I’m JUST understanding the chorus for the first time.  It hits so powerfully.

Think about all the things in your life you still have love for.  Think about how happy you are these places were part of your journey — these people are in your memory.  You get HIGH off the MEMORY of her.  It doesn’t even have to be a lover — just thinking of a friend… a happy moment: eating chocolate ice cream with your best friend on a warm summer day.  Even the sad moments; the angry moments — the times when you had your love betrayed.  Everything.  "It’s all there, y’know — and it’s the same as in a flower: everything’s there.  Y’know, it just is, and if you look long enough, all answers are in it."

Listen: “Pills N Potions

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So then Yo Gotti drops an existential banger.

Listen: “Errrbody

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I.
There’s a certain aesthetic in songs like Sylver’s “Turn The Tide”, ATC’s “Around The World” and O-Zone’s “Dragostea Din Tei”.  This is a feeling of short-bursted adoration for an intangible, ineffable bliss.  The problem is, the songs generally don’t sustain the intensity for the duration of the entire song; instead, just for the opening vocal hook.  By itself, these hooks welcome and transcend criticism altogether.  By being so perfect and setting the standard so impossibly high, it’s hard for the instrumental sections to not seem like obligatory fanfare, rather than an extension of the party itself.  They end up seeming comedic: like they were always destined, by never meant for anything beyond, internet memes and SoundCloud remixes.

II.
It’s a crystalized, digitized room we find ourselves in.  In this mess of chaos and confusion, I see you.  You are the sound that has always been there, but this time, you’re delivering on a promise you tried to deliver so many times before — this time, it’s different.  Truth-be-told, there’s hardly a way to sustain your intensity: the honeymoon period is what it is and I accept that.  I know that we’re past the peak and sailing towards mutually assured destruction.  We’re practically sprinting for it — “Beautiful” is the sonic representation of this idea.

III.
Looking at you actually increases the likelihood that the moment will pass.  I want to sit here in this in-between space, never letting go.  I don’t want to move forward.  I don’t want you to move forward.  I don’t want either of us to say a thing.  I don’t even want you or I to acknowledge the weight of this hesitation.  I just want to exist forever in this still life.  Though painted, we are still resting present — we are choosing to stand still.  We are locked in an embrace of true love — a love with no need for consummation.  A love that is instantaneous — it is of first sight and it is of never leaving that first sight.  We are locked in the stare of the moment; embracing the wow that is perfection, knowing it will fade and disintegrate the moment either one of us makes a move.  Our stars have crossed, interlocked and for once, we’re not letting go.

Listen: “Beautiful

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It’s Eminem’s natural lyrical prowess which turns otherwise sleepy beats into gen-u-wine classics.  There are hooks here that work mainly because he’s on the track and as a result, this album zooms by, providing insight where you’d least expect it.  It’s easy to see why Dre signed Em based on this tape, because Eminem’s presence improves just about every aspect of every song.

Additionally, in an era which has long moved-past Golden Age Hip Hop, Infinite — Mathers’ tribute to the sound — is refreshing, rather than dated.  Because the album was made DURING Hip Hop’s second golden age, there’s an authenticity here that’s simply not present in contemporary tributes (like Joey Bada$$).  The album, ironically, ends up feeling like the classic it was trying so hard to be.

Listen: “Never 2 Far

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To understand my feelings on this, just look at the cover artwork — a woman throwing her hands up to the lord, letting everything go.  Church is in session and Soulja Boy’s at the stand.  Nicki Minaj reaches critical heights before somewhat self-sabotaging herself with a few lines — but it’s nothing she doesn’t recover from.  She’s on fire with extreme motivation: trolling everyone while still providing a religious experience for those who have “Turn Down For What” as their personal mantra.

By making music in this manner, Nicki Minaj embraces 2014 without hinging to the past.  Low-key, Soulja Boy has been rising steadily since his major label debut.  ”Trigger Finger”, from Lil Wayne’s I Am Not A Human Being II, was one of the top 5 verses of 2013 for me — a song which, like Yasss Bish, embraces the moment and tries something fresh.  Soulja Boy has amassed a dark horse-underground of singles — well, almost an EP’s worth — and for Nicki Minaj to work with him so prominently shows serious insight.

Nicki Minaj, one of the most powerful female voices in the musical zeitgeist and single-handedly responsible for bringing women back into the rap conversation, is pretty daring.  For someone who gave into label pressure, or perhaps just guilty pleasure (via Pink Friday), she sure has an uncanny ability to make somewhat Warholian statements.  To make a song like “Stupid Hoe” or “Yasss Bish” isn’t some light-hearted undertaking — you risk your entire persona in the hopes people will empathize with the life-affirming nature of trap music.

Fortunately, every time those snares hit, you feel God’s hand on your shoulder — except he’s yelling at you: “Turn the fuck up and embrace the moment!!”  The cover art signals Team Nicki is hyper-conscious of the song’s sanctimonious nature.  This implies she is also aware (and okay with) the reception of “Stupid Hoe” — one of the most widely-watched and unanimously-downvoted videos on YouTube.  However, by simultaneously releasing several styles of music — traditional rap (“Lookin’ Ass”), stadium trap (this) and her take at singer/songwriting (“Pills N Potions”) — her fanbase can tailor their Nicki Minaj experience to personal preference.

Perhaps this is so obvious, it’s hiding in plain sight, but Nicki Minaj represents the feminine perspective.  In rap music (and arguably the world at large) this is the voice of the underdog, and this empowerment is easy to empathize with (particularly, once you’re aware of it).  All her music is on your side, like most rap music, but with Nicki Minaj, you really have no idea what she’s going to release next.  Sure, it’s probably going to be “rap” or possibly “pop”, but beyond that I wouldn’t be surprised if she dropped some prog shit in a couple years.

Listen: “Yasss Bish

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While I feel Future’s joy is self-evident, it dawns upon me not everyone is talking about this album.  I am personally torn whether or not to give this album higher marks (is it actually perfect, I’m just missing some things?) or if I’m on-point in restraining myself.  What’s not up-for-debate is that Honest consists of 1-3+ fantastic songs.  What’s also not up-for-debate is the album’s contemporary status – this is new music, representative of this year and the next few upon the horizon.  For whatever reason, no albums seem to have sounded quite like this, prior to this year. 

I’m not holding it against you, but people are obviously enjoying these tunes, myself included.  It’s very rare I find Future’s lyrics LITERALLY insightful — it’s the emotional nature of his delivery.  This provides a depth and completeness not possible with traditionally lyric-oriented rap.  Future’s certainly gotten better at the conceptual side of song-writing: his singing feels purposeful and his themes are sharper than they were on Pluto.  None-the-less, Future isn’t exactly the prototype for how you should vocalize lyrics, but because of his improvement, he’s ended up making futuristic, original music.  Everyone borrows from everyone; it’s about the touch YOU add to the music, and Future’s is a fresh, motivational perspective.

Despite all that, it seems we only come back to the same sort of “I’m too pretentious to listen to this”-attitude of the naysayers.  LISTEN to “Honest”.  LISTEN to “Blood, Sweat, Tears”.  You COULDN’T have KNOWN what I did for this!  You aren’t even listening!  Come on!  Stop thinking about where the music comes from; the attitude; the literal lyrical content; how the beat was made; the ego of any and all performers within — just LISTEN TO THE SOUND.  I find it MIND-BLOWING anyone who actually LISTENED TO THE MUSIC WITHOUT SUBCONSCIOUSLY BLOCKING THE FREQUENCIES could dislike “I Won”.

Speaking of which, let’s not forget the most atmospheric-sounding R&B since The Weeknd, encompassing tracks 6 through 9: I Won —> Never Satisfied —> I Be U.  Some called out the fact that Drake’s verse ended early, when in fact only about a second was ‘cut-off’ — had that second remained in, it would’ve sounded complete WITH the fade-out.  As is, it (intentionally) leaves one unsatisfied.  You still hear his entire verse, but that little jarring of what was sonically-sound leaves you feeling empty – as if you hadn’t just heard the last two minutes of music.  After the abrupt-ending, Future shares possibly the most positive song he’s made: “I Be U”, a free-spirited, abstract lullaby.

Peaks are nice, but it’s even nicer having someone with you during those peaks.  To experience something amazing for the first time, and to then look into the eyes of the person with you and know they feel the same way.  You see eye-to-eye; your stare encompasses everything either of you have ever felt.  Not a word is spoken — in the silence, there is unison.  No one wants to speak, but it’s overwhelming to keep such powerful feelings silent.  You have to let them know, for certain, that you are right here.  I see you, right now, right here with me.  I see you.

Listen: “Honest

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Almost flipping the tracklist backwards, Pluto 3D places the few highlights from Pluto alongside his three newest tracks (“First Class Flights”, “Jealous” & “My”), each reaching higher than any of the original 15 songs.  Additionally, the decision to remix two of the better stand-outs from Pluto (“Same Damn Time” & “Neva End” — the latter featuring the lovely Rowland at her best), increases the album’s potency.  As a 5-track EP, Pluto 3D is infinitely better than Pluto and provides the perfect introduction to Future’s balance between mind-numbing melody and bass-centric trap.

Listen: “Jealous