This episode of The Rapfest’s album review biweekly segmentation of The Audit: What’s The Score will provide a highly opinionated verse or two about the the following newly released albums: Gucci Mane’s DropTopWop, Bryson Tiller’s True to Self, and Faith Evans & Notorious BIG’s The King & I.
As this is the free world, you can agree or disagree, or better yet, chime in and make yourself heard in regards to the thoughts and commentary the Rapfest team has accumulated in regards to these recently dropped projects. Along with the times, music is ever-changing. One day you are up, the next day you may be down. The position that stance may put your album in is highly subjective and should not be taken so keenly. We see daily, incredibly talented acts get overlooked for the mediocre, and vice versa; a dope album is a dope album no matter who says what.
So always bear in mind, the score is relative to the artist. You don’t go to McDonald’s and expect a steak, do you?
Last year on May 26th Radric Davis aka Gucci Mane was released from federal prison after serving 3 years for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Since being released, Gucci has been on a prolific run. To date, he has dropped 8 projects which include Everybody Lookin, GucTiggy (with Zaytoven), Woptober, Return Of East Atlanta Santa, Free Bricks 2K16 (Zone 6 Edition) (with Future), 1017 vs. The World (with Lil Uzi Vert) and 3 For Free (with Shawty Redd). Along with that, he has gained his first number one single with “Black Beatles” alongside Rae Sremmurd, earned his first platinum plaque for “Both” featuring Drake, toured for the first time and got engaged to long time girlfriend Keyshia Kior.
No signs of slowing down, two weeks ago, on the one-year anniversary of his release from prison, Gucci dropped his highly anticipated collaborative mixtape with Metro Boomin, DropTopWop. Metro laced Gucci with some great production which complimented his style well, making him sound like a fresh new artist while touching on some new topics. The album which comes in at only 10 tracks is short and concise, but is a clear indication that Gucci has gotten better with trimming his projects down and still being able to maintain his severity of quality.
DropTopWop kicks off the “5 Million”, which finds Gucci right at home, proclaiming that he makes 5 million a day; a celebratory track fitting for a project that was released in honor of his year out of prison.
Out of all the projects, Gucci has released so far I believe this one is his best with every song sounding fresh with Gucci seeming to have caught his second wind. There’s a track on here for every type of Gucci fan.
“Helpless” is a strip club ready joint which finds Gucci using a sing-song type flow as he raps about how a woman’s pu**y has him addicted. The concept is simple but the hook is way catchy.
Offset shows up for “Met Gala” and floats all over this beat, handling the ad-libs, hook, and verses I almost forgot Gucci was on there for a minute, as he comes in at the tail end adding the icing on the cake.
“Dance With The Devil” which is one of my personal favorite tracks shows a different side of Gucci and finds him expressing some remorse for his past actions, and kicks some knowledge to the people that are taking the same drugs he once indulged in.
The album also includes features from Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, and Young Dolph who all do their thing with 2 Chainz dropping another standout verse. Overall, it’s a concise listen and doesn’t drag or get old due to the short tracklist. If you are a fan of Gucci you will love this project and even if you aren’t there is definitely at least one track on here for you too.
Sales wise, I don’t think it even charted, but Gucci could care less as I don’t think he’s ever cared about sales. And let’s be honest, his fanbase isn’t going out to buy albums anyway. As he stated on Bucket List, “Goin’ quadruple platinum, that’s not on my bucket list B****, my Rollie went quadruple platinum, you should see this sh**.”
With the work ethic he has and now being sober, Gucci Mane has returned as a new man and artist. He arguably might be bigger now than he was before he went to jail.
GRADE : 7.5
True to Self
We have all witnessed Bryson Tiller’s come-up as he climbed the charts with his good-guy demeanor along with his slight sense of arrogance and bravado. These traits were mixed up and presented to us about two
years ago on his debut project, TrapSoul. Records like “Exchange,” “Don’t,” “502 Come Up” and “Rambo” gave you a description of this Kentucky musicians background and the sort of things that made him into the artist that he is known to be today.
Tiller’s second offering, True to Self tells the same story with the addition of some early 90’s samples, but it becomes a bit more detailed and vivid as he explains his life through very emotional and honest records.
Creating this mash up of 90’s sounds from Brandy, Faith Evans, Mary J. Blige and more, Tiller was able to put together this nostalgic body of work that correlates with the life he has been living since the release of his break out album. Although records like “In-Check” and “Teach Me Lesson” speak volumes of someone who has found love and wishes to maintain it through various things, other tracks like “Something Tells Me” and “Stay Blessed” elaborates on the life of a young man surrounded by fame and fortune who finds it hard to keep his woman due to his newly found success. Adding the personal and emotional attachments to this album like speaking on the relationship with his daughters mother and her family on “Set it Off” and throwing jabs at his former manager on “Before You Judge,” Bryson stays true to his roots and more importantly, stays true to the sound that turned him into a household name.
With TrapSoul having the success that it did, it was True to Self that has given Tiller his first No. 1 album on the charts selling 107,000 in its first week. Though people still question his ability to make music and stay relevant with that one distinct sound, many artists have stamped their names in the industry with their distinct flavor that can easily be distinguished from the next person but contrary to Tiller’s R&B peers like The Weeknd and Tory Lanez, this young Louisville musician hasn’t made any attempts to crossover. Oh, but we do have that one record on his new album which is bit questionable,“Run Me Dry.” This track isn’t your typical Bryson Tiller tune as it clearly has a Caribbean vibe to it. You can see where he was making an attempt to try something new and at this point, who’s to say whether it will pay off or not.
Something else that’s very interesting when comparing both TrapSoul and True to Self is that they do have one thing in common – no features. Neither album has a guest appearance from another rapper or singer and it makes listeners wonder if Bryson is doing this for a specific reason. I firmly believe that although these records are relatable in experiences, a great majority of these songs are personally and emotionally attached to Tiller and his life, especially the tracks on True to Self.
The lyrics throughout the course of this project tell a story and that story is the rise of a young man from a staple place where most people don’t make it out of. Along with elaborating on his personal upbringing, Bryson Tiller also gives his fans more than what bargained for as he pours his heart out about the break up with his ex, the spotlight, his family, and his business life. Balancing the sappy love songs and the memorable samples with the braggadocious elements of his sudden luxurious lifestyle, True to Self creates an impact based on real experiences and situations. Bryson Tiller continues to show and prove by making noteworthy records and bringing his fans closer to him with songs that are relatable. As humans, we deal with our ups and downs, our highs and lows, the moments we want to cherish and the moments we wish we could forget. Tiller finds a way to take all of these examples and create these self-reflecting songs about personal experiences, money, love, woman, fame and compile it into a piece of work that can be spoken on 20 years from now.
While True to Self managed to get a 0 for features, I personally enjoy the fact that no one else is on it. It gave the album more of an authentic feel in regards to him telling his story.
GRADE : 7
Faith Evans & Notorious BIG
The King & I
The wife of the late & great Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, Faith Evans presented Hip Hop fans with a sort of gift a few weeks ago. On May 19th, the release of her rendition of a collaborated album of her and her
deceased husband BIG would introduce or re-introduce the R&B 90s nostalgia of a purely blessed talent of a singing voice that is Faith Evans, joined by her husband once again over his bars and familiarity that continues to reign in Hip Hop.
Releasing only two (2) completed studio albums prior to passing 20 years ago, Notorious BIG still remains a staple reminiscent of why Hip Hop is so beloved. The respect and tenure his lyrics still hold across any region, makes this album one to consider. But is it one to buy?
Unlike the one or two we’ve heard in the past, mash ups of his famous catch-phrases, some of which all music fans might know whether a Biggie follower or not, it was the unreleased tidbits of music (“I Don’t Want It” & “Take Me There”) which his widower, Faith was able to arrange over melodies and hooks centered around her loved one that caught my undivided attention. And I suppose she could have given us more, but giving credit where credit is due, with the little that was provided, it proved that Biggie really was ahead of his time. His importance to the culture is forever going to be a thing, as we continue to hear his verses recounted. In the conversation of impact, to be able to hold today’s listeners with discourse of a twenty something BIG 20 years ago is saying something. It says, or rather, it asks, “Who was this poet, speaker for his community? Who is this profound wordsman who 20 years later brings us back to a great place?”
No heaps of game-players or features looking to be on another Biggie track just for the sake of it, but the small reunion of a close knit family coming together once again to show love to their dear BIG on his birthday. His mom “Mama Wallace”, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Lil Cease, Lil Kim and more; those who knew him and closest to him came through. A strategic move meant to play a strategic role. Kicking off vibes of a true tranquil romance which ended in discord, the 25-track album begins with “Legacy”, production by Stevie J. Coupled with a recycled format of “Would You Die For Me”, it is Faith’s voice and melody which recites, “I knew from the very first moment / That you were a king fit just for a queen,” that lingers with me.
Removing our ears from the constant reminder of the absence the music world still mourns from, let’s recognize his other half as being still here, still in possession of her gracious tone. How many can say they get tired of the reproduction of old school tunes put over new school flows or refreshed beats, but then totally fall in awe for a Tory Lanez or even a Nicki Minaj who both at times re-purpose old joints making them new again. The message is clear, while showing love to her deceased husband, Faith is somewhat baiting us to take a gander at the fact that, she is still here as she takes over with ballad “Fool For You”, Biggie excluding.
And while we have detached ourselves from his death, the loss of a loved one is still very evident in “Somebody Knows”, a production by Salaam Remi recognizing the fact that, the cause or culprit to his death is still very unsolved; or have we forgotten because new music gets dropped daily, keeping those of the past, memories of the past, in the past.
“Lovin’ You For Life” speaks wonders, the track featuring Biggie’s other romantic partner Lil Kim keeps it all the way real. With Faith bringing that sultry that is still missing in today’s R&B acts, Kim raps, “I’ve been handling your death like the undertaker/ Keep you close to my heart like a pacemaker/Damn I’m missin’ the way we use to kissin'”.
Because critics will be critics, even when they adore you, they were meant to ridicule. And the sales are a reflection. Apparently, people are tired of hearing Biggie – I don’t know why. But as spoken throughout this read, it’s wrong to ignore the other sole voice, and the many other legendary drop-ins or artists and producers. It’s sad, people live to hate, or love to, rather.
With all that said, the musical-picture, with all its intention meant to tell a love story has been told. Although, arguably 10 or 12 tracks too much, it still flows. But if we are judging fairly based on lyrics, production, features and impact, the score is relative.
GRADE : 7.5
And you can agree to disagree, in the comments box. Until next time though, Happy Friday.