MUSIC

Review: Can "Culture III" Change the Culture Once Again?

Can the tide shift with the Migos sway as it did in 2017? It doesn't seem likely. Even flash-in-the-pan moments of excitement are drowned out by long stretches of monotony.

Culture III

When the original Culture was released back in 2017, the Atlanta area was already a bustling rap mecca, filled with so many rap migrants that Coach K, the head of the now unstoppable Quality Control Music, told The New York Times with all sincerity that there were "more transplants in the city of Atlanta than people from Atlanta."

But Atlanta's cultural staying power was solidified by Culture, and the city became publicly recognized as a "center of gravity" in hip-hop. The city's ominous musical palette became the blueprint for trap music as a whole moving forward, and every rapper to emerge after Culture's release bit off the Migos triplet-laced flow. The mimicry got so bad that Snoop Dogg chimed in at one point to clown and condemn it.

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This Haunts Me: When Punk Went Crunk

To reflect back on this shudder-inducing album is to discover a laundry list of issues, the most prominent issue being that most of the covers on this compilation aren't even Crunk music.

Punk Goes Crunk

It was fun to be a scene kid in 2008.

It kinda felt like music of all sorts was thriving nationwide. Bands like Say Anything and My Chemical Romance had been household names for a few years now; and Shinedown, Buckcherry, and Staind were all sharing radio time with Natasha Bedingfield and Lil Wayne. Anything seemed possible, and the Punk Goes… compilation series was a testament to that.

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Review: "The Voice of The Heroes" Demonstrates Why Collab Albums Don't Work Anymore

Lil Baby and Durk's lively bouts of lyricism are enmeshed between hollow flexes and a bloated track list.

The Voice of the Heroes

In hip-hop in particular, it seems hard for a collaborative effort to truly satisfy the ravenous appetites of its fans.

Young Thug and Chris Brown's joint effort Slime & B was one of the most forgettable releases of 2020, with "Go Crazy's" radio success hinging on a viral dance challenge that barely gained traction. Another surprise collab release from Future and Lil Uzi Vert that same year sounded rushed and tedious and barely turned heads, which was surprising considering the latter was still ripe off his success of Eternal Atake.

From Metro Boomin's joint work with Big Sean and 21 Savage to every DJ Khaled record and the monumental letdown of albums like Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho and Everything Is Love, collab albums since 2011's Watch The Throne's have more often than not hinged their success on the PR power of its stars more than the substance of its records. Albums get sold, social media stirs for a moment, but records like Wrld on Drugs eventually wind up in the discount bin at Wal-Mart. Remember when T-Pain and Lil Wayne made a mixtape together called T-Wayne? Me neither.

So where does The Voice of the Heroes fall? It's unclear. Lil Baby and Lil Durk's buttery flows blend together nicely and tracks like "Man of My Word" offer energized exchanges that feel like a super-charged battery. Both rappers are known for their vulnerable penmanship, and the emcees sprinkle moments of candid reflections across the album's bloated 18 tracks. Lil Durk's powerful eye for detail radiates on "Still Hood," where he describes bathing in a bucket, sharing a room with a junkie after his uncle got cancer, and how he used to sleep in strangers bathrooms on a duct-taped air mattress while listening to his aunt have sex next door. It's these haunting details that make Durk such a force on the mic, and when mixed with Lil Baby's penchant for social justice and self-motivation, they should create tracks that are powerful and rich with detail.

Lil Baby & Lil Durk - Voice of the Heroes (Official Video) www.youtube.com

But the truth is that these lively bouts of lyricism are enmeshed between so many hollow flexes ("I'm rich as fuck I can do what I wanna / came over sober she left here a stoner") and lines written solely to fill up space("check my net worth, hundred-fifty cash on the pay worth / Google better change my net worth") that it becomes harder and harder to pick out the gems as the project goes on.

"I done had to stand in front of the judge, and tell her I'm a user," Lil Baby raps on "Please," but the tragic sentiment of that statement is quickly buried underneath his follow-up anecdote about how Lil Baby and his money are married and "fuck off as a couple."

The impressive trickle of guest features, strangely, doesn't remedy the album's monotonous bouts. Travis Scott's last-minute verse on "Hats Off" feels scattered and ends so abruptly that it sounds like it had been solely scraped together to appease Travis fans. Meek Mill's choice to substitute his candid sincerity for braggadocious flexes on "Still Runnin" feels like a missed opportunity when the former could have truly elevated the track into something meaningful, and Rod Wave's brief appearance on "Rich Off Pain" doesn't boost the track in the ways one would hope and becomes quickly overshadowed by Durk noting that he'd use a butter knife to break into his aunt's room to steal money.

The only worthwhile appearance is Young Thug, who sounds vibrant and like he's having the time of his life on "Up the Side." The production itself doesn't pull any punches, either. The regular heavy hitters make their appearances (London on da Track, FOREVEROLLING, Murda Beatz) but offer up the same handful of oily bass-driven trap instrumentals that are well within all of their comfort zones.

At times Lil Baby and Lil Durk blend together with powerful empathy, but these moments come watered down by the project's weak flexes and gimmicky spectacles (Durk's veiled threat of violence against Quando Rondo on "Still Runnin" is already gaining traction on the blogs). Then there are moments that feel barely strung together at all, with songs like "Okay" and "That's Facts" feeling copied and pasted together by two artists just trying to cram another album into their busy schedule.

It all together makes those fleeting moments of vulnerability feel heartbreaking because they serve as brief glimpses into what this album could have been had it been given the proper care and attention. But I suppose that's the overall tragedy of collaborative albums, in general. When one passes by without leaving a mark, it feels like you missed the spotting of a shooting star, or worse yet like you had your wish granted and it just didn't change much of anything.

The Voice of the Heroes

MUSIC

R.I.P. Lil Loaded – 6 Great Songs

It was confirmed that the artist passed away over the weekend

When 20-year-old Dallas emcee Lil Loaded finally uploaded his hit song "6locc 6aby" to YouTube, it was two weeks later than he had wanted.

His cameraman's computer had broken down two weeks prior, and life had gotten in the way so he wasn't able to upload it until late at night on July 26, 2019. At that exact moment, the popular YouTuber Tommy Craze was filming the latest episode of his series "Reacting to Music Videos with 0 VIEWS!" He stumbled upon Loaded's "6locc 6aby," which was the rapper's second song he ever made, and he loved it.

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The 10 Best Festival Lineups for Summer 2021

With most festivals returning this summer, which of the lineups reigns supreme?

Pitchfork Fest

Getty

The festival experiences we all collectively yearned for last year are finally a reality again!

With cases at an all-time low and 50% of US adults vaccinated against the coronavirus, many of the country's biggest festivals have announced a return this summer. Fans of legendary fests like Burning Man and Coachella will unfortunately have to wait another year, but Bonnaroo, Electric Zoo and Austin City Limits are just a few of the historic festivals that plan to return to the circuit this summer, and in turn announced some of their biggest lineups ever. Here are some of the biggest festivals coming back this summer.
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MUSIC

Slept On: The Latest In Rap (May 21, 2021)

After coming off a number of A-list releases last week, this new music Friday is relatively tame.

Young Nudy

After coming off a number of A-list releases last week, this new music Friday is relatively tame.

Lil Nas X and BTS sprinkled out some new singles, and fans of Olivia Rodrigo are eating well today as she just put out her new debut album. Twenty One Pilots put out an album too, if you're into that sort of whiny thing. For rap fans, though, there is plenty of new music. Benny The Butcher, Young M.A., Hoodrich Pablo Juan, and 42 Dugg all returned with new projects, and Pooh Shiesty and Yung Baby Tate put out deluxe editions of their hit albums Shiesty Season and After The Rain. There are also many more releases that went under the radar. Here are this week's other slept-on records.


"Fine Art" by Caskey

While he has a steady stream of albums and collaborations to his name, Cash Money's Caskey remains the label's most undervalued emcee. Over the years, the rapper has experimented with COVID-themed wordplay, autotuned sing-song warblings, and emotional pop tunes in the key of Drake with admittedly mixed results. In turn, Caskey's following has remained relatively stagnant as he's toyed with his sound, but it was clear through it all that a vicious talent for the microphone always lurked just beneath the surface.

On Fine Art, the rapper comes armed with some of his fieriest bars in recent memory, and on tracks like "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas" and "Witchita," he attacks his doubters from every angle over producer Tony Choc's granulated soul samples. But Fine Art isn't all noxious flexes. Caskey is painfully aware of how stagnated his career has been at times, and uses the project's softer moments to admit these frustrations: "Feel like my life is some type of parody," he raps on "Blue Moon." "God really playin' jokes on me / He brings the wins so close / and then they turn out like my old homies / When it's tough, they get ghost."

Fine Art's humble anecdotes and spitfire bars hope to change our perception of Caskey, and they just might.

"Dr. Ev4l" by Young Nudy

Young Nudy's exploratory production and hypnotic bars have always helped him stand out from Atlanta's crowded trap scene. On Dr EV4L, the album art finds Nudy playing the role of the menacing ringmaster, and in turn, his unsettling musical persona takes on a more literally villainous hue.

"Surgical with this shit, no type of training," Nudy grumbles like a mad doctor on "Mini Me." "I get wicked with this shit, man." On "Yellow Tape," Nudy doesn't even try to hide his murderous intentions. Instead, he sings an opulent melody about it. "Murder, murder, kill on my mind, I just wanna murder," he coos. The project is as unnerving as it is soothing in its anesthetic sound, and finds Nudy leaning even further into his grimmest nature.

"Borrowed Time" by Dark Lo & Harry Fraud

Sinister Philadelphia rapper Dark Lo tapped Harry Fraud to manage the production of his latest work Borrowed Time, and it was a good decision. "Premonition's" lurking piano keys sound as creepy as Halloween and the hypnotic guitar plucks of "Missing Summer" lay the perfect groundwork for Lo and Boldy James's unsettling bars on the violence and late-night dealings that surrounded them. "Survival of the fittest, for my name God is my witness," he raps. "I glide like physics, shorty chew me like gizzards, I brought the toolie it's a blizzard."

Fans of Lo's have been salivating for the release of Borrowed Time, with many expecting this project to send him to stardom. It will be interesting to see how the rapper's career plays out from here, especially as he currently is embroiled in two federal cases.

"Neighborhood Poetry" by FCG Heem

After a long wait, Florida's melodic FCG Heem finally let go of his debut project Neighborhood Poetry. Here, Heem proves the versatility of his voice across the project. On tracks like "Shinin" and "Believe In Me," the emcee's voice is often full of passionate yearning as he wails into the mic, but then on tracks like the Pooh Shiesty assisted "Beef," his flow is ruthless, his voice guttural and ominous as he initiates orders like a colonial. "Told lil' bruh he better not come back until all them n***as dead," he raps. Neighborhood Poetry is a compelling debut from the young and charismatic emcee.