Category Archives: Reviews

Album Review: Meek Mill – “Dreams and Nightmares”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

From the moment he first aligned himself with Rick Ross and Maybach Music, it was evident Meek Mill was a boss in his own right. His first single with the label was properly named “I’m a Boss” and he exlaimed it all through the track. Meek Mill easily stole the spotlight in 2011 and properly defended it in 2012.

Meek Mill already had a proven track record on the mixtape circuit, but few are able to translate this success over to their albums. This was indeed the case for Meek Mill, as he continues to display his progression since he joined MMG. Since making it big, the Philadelphia emcee endured “dreams and nightmares.”

Because of this, Meek Mill felt Dreams and Nightmares was the proper title to give to his album. The album is full of hits, from the lead single, “Amen,” to “Believe It,” with Rick Ross. Other notable tracks on the album include “Maybach Curtains” with John Legend, Nas, and Rick Ross, along with “Philadelphia,” a song dedicated to his hometown.

Dreams and Nightmares came at a time when many stellar albums have been released and numerous debut albums. While it may not hold up to some of the other 2012 releases, it is definitely worth it to listen to, as Meek Mill does drop gems on the new album.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 7/10

Album Review: Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, m.A.A.d. city”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

A lot of discussion has surrounded Kendrick Lamar and his debut album, before and after the release. Taking all of the commentary and placing it on the backburner, good kid, m.A.A.d. city was a proper introduction for someone who was indeed what the album’s title reads.

Kendrick Lamar hails from Los Angeles, in one of the toughest neighborhoods, Compton. The city of Compton has produced the likes of Ice Cube and Game, along with many other “gangsta” rappers. Simply based off the location, it is expected for every artist from this area to be “gangsta.”

However, honesty is still accepted in the rap game and Kendrick Lamar delivered this on his album. The album is ultimate journey into manhood, as Kendrick Lamar spits about everything from peer pressure, fantasizing about girls, sex, and the gang life. In each topic, Kendrick Lamar easily navigates through each topic, telling his story.

While Kendrick Lamar successfully portrays himself as a non violent street kid, he was able to pay homage. Standout tracks on the album come in the form of his anthem, “Compton,” with Dr. Dre and “m.A.A.d. city” with MC Eiht. Kendrick Lamar was able to have the veteran influence on his album and still have room for Drake and Jay Rock, the latter of which is his Top Dawg label-mate. good kid, m.A.A.d. city may not be considered a classic by all, but is definitely one of the year’s better albums and a perfect start for a future legend.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 7/10

Album Review: Machine Gun Kelly – “Lace Up”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

A three year journey ended yesterday when Machine Gun Kelly released his Lace Up album through Bad Boy Records. Machine Gun Kelly has turned the rap game on its ear over the past year. Despite efforts from Paul Wall and others, white rappers have been pre-judged by the standard set by Eminem.

However, Machine Gun Kelly has proven to be a different type of beast, comparable to a present-day DMX. With co-signs from Diddy and DMX, Machine Gun Kelly laced up for his debut album, Lace Up. Anticipation was already high with “Wild Boy,” featuring Waka Flocka Flame, being a success and he kept the attention of the hip hop community.

Combining a wild, fast, flow with true lyricism, Machine Gun Kelly has proven to be unlike anything before or after him. Versatility is something many artists strive for, but a select few only manage to perfect. Machine Gun Kelly walks a thin line, saying in his lane, while making songs with the likes of Ester Dean, Bun B, and Lil Jon all great works of music.

Throughout Lace Up, Machine Gun Kelly does not simply walk this tightrope, he runs this tightrope, delivering a great body of work along the way.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: DJ Drama – “Quality Street Music”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Many credit DJ Drama for being the man who made DJs relevant in the rap game again. It had been four years since DJ Drama released an album before Third Power came out last year. Now, DJ Drama is back on the heels of his last album with Quality Street Music. The first single off this album came only five months after Third Power was released.

While albums led by DJs are usually judged as compilation albums and only listened to for the singles, DJ Drama obviously put a lot of work into Quality Street Music. Everything from the selection of singles to the artists on the songs fit. DJ Drama would hit the year of 2012 with a bang, dropping “We in this Bitch,” with Future, Young Jeezy, T.I., and Ludacris.

DJ Drama lived up to the nameQuality Street Music, delivering such songs as “Never Die,” which features Jadakiss, Nipsey Hussle, and Young Jeezy. While delivering deep songs, such as “Never Die,” DJ Drama also gives into the vanity with songs like “My Audemars,” which features Meek Mill, Birdman, and Gucci Mane.

On Quality Street Music, DJ Drama was able to do what most rappers fail to do, provide a balanced album. DJ Drama balanced the album with commercial-themed tracks like “We in this Bitch” and “1.5,” which features Future and Drake. At the same time, DJ Drama “Clouds,” which features Rick Ross, Miguel, Pusha T, and Curren$y; along with “My Way,” which features Common, Lloyd, and Kendrick Lamar. In a sense of irony, one of 2012’s best rap albums comes from a DJ, DJ Drama to be exact. Quality Street Music is definitely an album to check out.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: Lupe Fiasco – “Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Using entertainment as his platform, Lupe Fiasco uses his music to educate and inform his young audience. Focused on spreading his message, Lupe Fiasco often butts heads with those closest to him. This was the case from 2007 until 2011 when he battled Atlantic Records, who forced him to change.

Finally securing a rleease date for Lasers, Lupe Fiasco was forced to abandon his trademark style to go pop. Lupe Fiasco promised his next album, Food & Liquor II, would be his best work yet, a return to himself. During the spring of 2012, Lupe Fiasco released the promo single from Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1.

Yesterday, following much discussion, the entire album was finally released. A drastic turn from most of the other 2012 albums, Food & Liquor II was a breath of fresh air. In a year full of “stuntin,” Lupe Fiasco opened up about the harsh realities of the world. The singles, unlike the singles released of late, are not a dramatic turn from the album, instead they are the perfect draw. Still, the standout singles from the album include his “Bitch Bad” single.

As the year of 2012 transitions into its final stage and the election nears, Lupe Fiasco provides the perfect music for the season.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: Don Panama – “The American Dream”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Often told by American History is the dream many immigrants had of leaving the “old country” for new hope in the United States. The stories are told of the great men which have led this nation, including such presidents as George Washington. Other pioneers credited include Benjamin Franklin, a major hip hop topic.

However, given the poor economy in recent years, the American Dream would seem like a nightmare to many. Independent artist, Don Panama, still sees the positives in the American Dream, as it is the title of his latest album. With hip hop music as his hustle, Don Panama showed exactly what he is about.

Becoming more and more common in hip hop is the versatility of rappers, as they can party and provoke intelligent thought. However, with all new rappers trying to be “versatile,” this sector of hip hop has become over-saturated. Don Panama jumps into this lane, not to live up to any sort of hype, simply because it comes natural.

Those who truly listened to his album, The American Dream, can see how easily he makes this transition. Simply explaining his own dream of America, over the course of eleven tracks, Don Panama makes it easy to see his vision. While expressing his raw feelings, Don Panama invites everyone who listened to him into his party. It is this blend that separates Don Panama from the other party Latino rappers in the game.

Don Panama, unlike many others, has successfully created his own lane with The American Dream. Something many artists often boast about being able to do, while being lumped into the same category, is what Don Panama has unintentionally done. Regardless of how people feel about this genre of hip hop, Don Panama’s The American Dream album is a classic.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: G.O.O.D. Music – “Cruel Summer”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Over the course of his entire career, Kanye West has owned and operated his own label, G.O.O.D. Music. But, six years into the label, there was not much to show for his track record as an executive. The label produced successes, such as Common, Kid Cudi, and John Legend, but there were many more artists wanting their big break.

In 2010, Pusha T was signed and Big Sean began releasing new music. Kanye West teamed up with Jay-Z for Watch the Throne in 2011 and gave green lights to Pusha T and Big Sean. The summer of 2011 was big for Big Sean, Pusha T, and Kanye West, leading to Kanye West establishing a exclusive deal with Def Jam.

Big Sean announced G.O.O.D. Music would come together for a joint album, comparable to those of Young Money and Maybach Music, in the fall of 2011. This new coincided with Common’s news of him leaving the label. While he departed, he promised he would still be a major part of the album.

By 2012, the album was barely mentioned, but as the spring began, Kanye West released “Mercy” with Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz, followed by “Cold,” which confirmed his relationship with Kim Kardashian. After the release of “Cold,” which features DJ Khaled, the album’s title was revealed to be Cruel Summer. Kanye West produced a film of the same name, starring G.O.O.D. Music in Cannes, France. The stage was officially set for the album, which was then given a July release date.

Cruel Summer would go through several release dates before the September 14 digital release of the album. Each single off the album would go on to become a hit, as “New God Flow,” the G.O.O.D. Music remix of Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” with Jadakiss, and “Clique,” which features Jay-Z, would also be released. While Cruel Summer is a joint effort of over seven artists, including CyHi the Prynce and new signee, Teyana Taylor, from Harlem, the album is relatively short.

Unlike most compilation albums, which are usually thrown together, Cruel Summer has a continious flow. Also, each performer on the album excels in the lyrics department at a time when lyrics have become less and less necessary in hip hop. All in all Cruel Summer establishes itself as the epitome of group albums, as everyone has an equal role. While the concept may or may not have come from the efforts of Maybach Music, G.O.O.D. Music has taken the format and built even more upon it.

Cruel Summer ended up being a late summer, but it was well worth the wait.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: DMX – “Undisputed”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

As the final stretch of 2012 is here, the year has proven to be one of the best hip hop has seen in recent years. The mainstays, such as Rick Ross and Lil Wayne have continued going strong, along with their artists. Meanwhile, Kanye West has enjoyed a resurgence and his crew is sharing the spotlight.

The year of 2012 has also served as the year of the comeback, as new albums have come from Nas, Ja Rule, and now DMX. On September 11, DMX released his first album in six years, Undisputed. After all he has gone through, many wondered if DMX could successfully compete in this new rap game.

Unimpressed by the likes of Drake and Rick Ross, DMX’s return has proven to show a return of balance in the hip hop game. DMX finds himself in a unique position, an outsider in the game he once ruled. While DMX may be new to many hip hop fans, he has proven he has not lost his trademark confidence.

Lyrically, the same DMX shows up on Undisputed. However, when it comes to the subject matter, DMX appears to be less confident, showing his growth as a person. Along with many other albums, Undisputed will likely be overlooked, but is a triumphant comeback from DMX, displaying his determination to return to the top. Separating himself from the rest of the game, Machine Gun Kelly is the only artist featured on the album, appearing on the “I Don’t Dance” single.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 7/10

Album Review: Beanie Sigel – “This Time”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

As both a man and an artist, Beanie Sigel finds himself in a unique position, in the middle of a comeback, while being forced away. Since the official demise of Roc-A-Fella Records in 2008, the Philadelphia rapper has been trying to get things together. Five years passed without a Beanie Sigel album and the game went through drastic changes.

Beanie Sigel signed a new label deal and prepared to reunite his State Property crew, when he was sentenced to two years in prison for tax evasion. Nothing like prison was going to stop Beanie Sigel, however. In the face of adversity, Beanie Sigel announced his first album in five years, This Time.

On his new album, Beanie Sigel reunited with State Property and also has collaborations with the likes of Game and Akon on the project. A comeback album for Beanie Sigel, the album is a must-hear for those who love the hardcore genre of hip hop. Over the past few years, Beanie Sigel has remained relevant through collaborations.

This Time, however, is clearly headlined by Beanie Sigel, as his typical dominance shines through on each track. While Beanie Sigel has delivered one of the most-solid albums of the year, the overall lack of promotion may be his only downfall. Waiting five years in between album releases, Beanie Sigel returned with a strong force. However, the long gap in time may lead to many newer fans not knowing who he is and the lack of promotion leading to many longtime fans not knowing he has anything out.

While This Time will likely be overlooked, it will definitely be a hidden gem, as one of 2012’s best albums. An eleven track opus, Beanie Sigel is not asking much time of his listeners. The album may not be the best in his overall collection, but it is the perfect “hello/goodbye” comeback album from the Philadelphia rhymeslinger. This Time comes as the bright spot for Beanie Sigel, as the album was released last week, as he will soon have to report to prison on September 12.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: Slaughterhouse – “welcome to: OUR House”

By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Seemingly banned by the industry, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, Royce Da 5’9, and Crooked I found most of their success on the mixtape level. Separately, the four emcees were among the most popular mixtape rappers in the game. However, when the foursome came together, they were on the verge of making hip hop history.

Slaughterhouse was born late in 2008 and there were rumors of Eminem signing the group from the very beginning. Eminem, at the time, was working on Relapse, his comeback album. The Slaughterhouse four would sign with Koch Records (eOne Music) and release their self-titled debut album.

Even before the release of their debut album, fans knew Slaughterhouse would eventually sign with Shady Records. Because of this, anticipation was high for their Shady Records debut, their sophomore album, before their debut album was released. Throughout 2010 and 2011, many release dates came and went.

During the closing days of 2011, Slaughterhouse revealed their Shady Records debut would be released before the end of 2012. With a spring 2012 release date planned, Slaughterhouse went on tour. Their tour was set to end the same day they released their debut album, which was eventually titled welcome to: OUR House. More delays would be set before Slaughterhouse would release their album, teaming with DJ Drama for a mixtape, On the House, which was released last week.

This past week, Slaughterhouse released their highly-anticipated Shady Records debut, welcome to: OUR House. The album was been expected for well over three years. With the album finally released, Slaughterhouse has had several singles out, which have done very well. Among those singles include “Throw it Away,” “My Life,” and “Throw That.” Featured on those singles are Swizz Beatz, Cee-Lo, and Eminem. On these tracks, the foursome finds themselves overshadowed, a bit, by the guests.

Slaughterhouse put together an enjoyable album and did not rely on many guests, as there are four members in the group. However, for those looking for a classic album will be greatly disappointed.welcome to: OUR Houseis definitely an album full of hits, featuring such hitmakers as B.o.B. and Busta Rhymes, in addition to Skylar Grey, Eminem, Cee-Lo, and Swizz Beatz. While the focus was clearly on Slaughterhouse, they were a bit overshadowed on their collaborations.

With so many artists on the album, welcome to: OUR House plays out more like a compilation album than an album displaying a “supergroup.” But, released in a summer where albums came from Nas, Rick Ross, and DJ Khaled, welcome to: OUR House will ultimately be overlooked, especially with albums scheduled for 2012 release dates from Game and Lil Wayne, among others.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 6/10