Category Archives: Reviews

Hip Hop Classic of the Month: LL Cool J – “Mr. Smith”

LL Cool J Mr SmithBy Q The Question
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Even though he held the rap game down longer than anyone else who came out of New York, LL Cool J always seems to get slighted. He is best known for the songs for the ladies, but LL makes classics. LL Cool J was at his best when he came back with Mr. Smith after a two-year hiatus.

Releasing his album in 1995, New York hip hop as a whole was in comeback mode. With the scene coming back, all that was missing was LL Cool J. Knowing what the game was looking for LL Cool J delivered a raw, rap album with the commercial appeal he made himself known for.

LL Cool J is one of the best lyricists in the game because he is versatile. While LL Cool J can do almost any form of rap, he is at his best when he is making songs for the ladies and also when he makes those songs about being a player. The mistake of his previous album was too much hardcore, which LL Cool J corrected.

Releasing Mr. Smith in November of 1995, LL Cool J kept the hardcore going with “I Shot Ya,” featuring Keith Murray, and the official remix that had Mobb Deep, Fat Joe, and Foxy Brown on the track along with Keith Murray again. “I Shot Ya” got the streets behind LL again, because he kept it straight lyrical on the track, going at his enemies, even Kool Moe Dee. But, LL Cool J did not forget about his devoted commercial fan base, so he delivered “Hey Lover” with Boyz II Men and that remains a classic record.

Hip hop was transitioning in 1995, as this was the year after Ready to Die, the year of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, and the year before Reasonable Doubt. All three of those albums helped to launch Mafioso rap of the 1990s that would eventually become the “Shiny Suit” era. But, those three albums, along with a few other debut albums were all considered 90s classics, but lost in the mix is Mr. Smith, the most-balanced album out of all of them.

LL Cool J was the veteran who asserted himself as the leader of the resurgent New York hip hop scene that was full of new stars. From the singles to the order in which the songs flowed on the album, LL Cool J delivered one of hip hop’s all-time classics with Mr. Smith. This is one album that deserves more shine, especially when talking about classic 90s albums, as the double platinum sales even helped keep struggling Def Jam afloat.

Watch “I Shot Ya” by LL Cool J ft. Keith Murray, Mobb Deep, Fat Joe, and Foxy Brown

Watch “Hey Lover” by LL Cool J ft. Boyz II Men below:

Watch “Doin’ It” by LL Cool J ft. LeShaun below:

Watch “Loungin'” by LL Cool J ft. Total below:

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Album Review: French Montana – “Excuse My French”

Excuse My French officialBy Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

This is the guy everybody has been waiting for and French Montana did not make the people wait any longer. Restoring New York hip hop to prominence, French Montana released his debut album on Tuesday, May 21. Excuse My French came as the first album release under the Coke Boys and Bad Boy Records.

It all started for French Montana when “Shot Caller” rose from being a mixtape single to a national anthem. From there, the label deals were offered, Bad Boy Records was chosen, and the album finally was scheduled. Last summer, French Montana also released the hit singles, “Pop That” and “Marble Floors” before dropping “Freaks” this past spring.

French Montana put out one of the hottest albums of the year, thus far. Never boasting about his lyrical prowess, French Montana held his own with such names as Lil Wayne, Ace Hood, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Rick Ross, Raekwon, Snoop Dogg, Scarface, and Machine Gun Kelly. Once and for all, French Montana proved he was no slouch.

What French Montana is, however, is a consistent hitmaker. It has been a long time since New York City could count on somebody to both deliver hit singles and solid albums. French Montana is doing both and making it look easy, while not forgetting where he came from, including Max B on the record. Keeping the R&B balance, French Montana also had records with Jeremih, The Weeknd, and Ne-Yo.

Rapping over beats from Young Chop, Rico Love, Jahlil Beats, Reefa, Cardiak, and more, French Montana proved he could handle almost any beat and still make a decent song. All of this led to French Montana putting out an exceptional album that has definitely become the summer soundtrack, replacing the earlier music that came out. Whether or not Excuse My French can stand the test of time remains to be seen, but in the here and now, the project is indeed a classic.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: LL Cool J – “Authentic”

AuthenticBy Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Trying something different following a long hiatus is something very few artists in any genre of music can pull off. But, there is a reason LL Cool J reigned supreme from 1985 through 2008. Gracefully bowing out of the game five years ago, LL Cool J triumphantly returned earlier this month with Authentic.

LL Cool J took the game back to its roots with “Whaddup,” the first single off the album. It featured appearances from Chuck D, Travis Barker, Tom Morello, and Z-Trip. But, the album has the makings of a classic starting with the “Bath Salt” intro. On the album, LL manages to include each facet of his career, switching styles effortlessly.

On such songs as “We’re The Greatest” with Eddie Van Halen and Travis Barker and the aforementioned “Whaddup,” the original LL Cool J from 1985 shows up. But, on such songs as “Give Me Love” with Seal show off the LL Cool J who made hits in the 2000s. Also included on the album is “We Came to Party” with Snoop Dogg and Fatman Scoop.

Earth, Wind, and Fire pop up on Authentic and LL Cool J shows he knows how to put together a classic album. Criticizing his last album and the style he had, LL Cool J corrected this error in a few witty bars on Authentic. Including the old LL Cool J, the LL from the 1990s, and the LL from a few years ago and sprinkling in guests from all walks of urban music, LL Cool J delivered a diamond in the ruff. Authentic is one of 2013’s best albums to come out.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: Eve – “Lip Lock”

Lip LockBy Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

It is often said that “perfection takes time,” but there are also instances where people are simply late. Given the success Eve had when she first came out with the critically-acclaimed platinum albums and breakout hit singles, hip hop was eager to have her return. But, the downside to some veterans coming back is them not being up to par.

With Lip LockEve sounded out of place on most of the album. In an attempt to try something different on the album, Eve just sounded “different.” Throughout most of the album, Eve finds as if she is simply trying too hard. Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott, and Gabe Saporta are among the guests who outperformed Eve on the album.

An eleven year hiatus is hard to come back from and after she didn’t drop her album in 2007, maybe it was best for Eve to rethink the comeback album. By no means has Eve lost a step in lyrical ability. On “Grind or Die,” Eve shows off a little bit of what made her famous in the first place, but as for the rest of the album, the eleven years was too much to overcome.

Another highlight on the album is the “She Bad Bad” remix with Pusha T and Juicy J. Once again, the show was stolen from Eve by the guests on the track. As mixtapes have overtaken albums, Eve’s Lip Lock plays out more like an artist mixtape circa 2008 more than it does an official comeback album. There are good songs on the album, but Eve only shows herself off properly on a handful of the album tracks, which is a handful within itself at twelve tracks.

Hopefully, Lip Lock is simply the warm-up and Eve has had the chance to properly stretch to return with her next album on point.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 4/10

Hip Hop Classic of the Month: 50 Cent – “Get Rich or Die Tryin’

Get Rich or Die TryinBy Q The Question
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Journalism is still a personal passion even though the record label is headed in the right direction. A while back, there was a discussion of the Hip Hop Classic of the Month being revived through Hip Hop Vibe. Look at the headline though, there is the obvious answer, and no better way to start than with 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

Real hip hop heads know about this album and the movement 50 Cent led. Hip hop had gotten soft and it was led by Ja Rule and Murder Inc. A great talent in his own right, Ja Rule had the misfortune of going against 50 Cent. At the same time, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was a hardcore rap album full of straight hits.

While the album came out in February, “In Da Club” did not become the massive hit it became until April/May. Ten years have gone by, but when this song hits the radio, it makes everybody feel like they “in the club” even if they stuck in traffic! But, the album is best-known for its intro and the first line “they say I walk around like I got a ‘S’ on my chest, nah that’s a semi-auto and a vest on my chest.’

Hip hop in 2002-2003 was not built like that and 50 Cent changed the standard. Aiming at everything that was Ja Rule and Murder Inc., 50 Cent did his enemies in with “Back Down” and the lead single, “Wanksta,” that he claimed wasn’t about Ja. But, 50 Cent also gave it up to the ladies with his second chart-topping single, “21 Questions,” with the late Nate Dogg featuring Meagan Good in the music video. 50 Cent closed the album with his “P.I.M.P.” remix single that introduced G-Unit and featured Snoop Dogg.

50 Cent detailed the gruesome story about him getting shot portraying a man similar to Ja Rule on the track, “Many Men.” It was never released as an official single off the album, but “Many Men” gained radio play and the music video hit BET and MTV. Adding to the dark element of the song was Tom Lister, Jr.’s role in the video. Lister is best-known for playing Deebo on Ice Cube’s Friday film series, but he played alongside 50 Cent in “Many Men.”

A lot went into the album that also featured appearances from Eminem and production from Dr. Dre and the rest of Shady/Aftermath. Months later, “If I Can’t…” was released as a single, but did not have much success.

Watch “Wanksta” by 50 Cent below:

Watch “In Da Club” by 50 Cent below:

Watch “21 Questions” by 50 Cent ft. Nate Dogg below:

Watch “Many Men” by 50 Cent below:

Watch “P.I.M.P. (remix)” by 50 Cent ft. Snoop Dogg, and G-Unit (Lloyd Banks and Young Buck) below:

Follow Q The Question on Twitter @QTheQuestion.

Album Review: Kid Cudi – “Indicud”

IndicudBy Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Going into Indicud, Kid Cudi received the best type of promotion, which surrounded his exit from G.O.O.D. Music. Known for pushing the genre that is hip hop with his music, people expected a musical treat, anyway. But, more people knew about this album that probably originally would because of Kid Cudi’s news.

All label politics aside, Kid Cudi refocused on an album that had been in the works for months. Back in August, “Just What I Am,” featuring King Chip, was released. Headed into the spring of 2013, Kid Cudi released the music surrounding the single and it led to what the world has known as Indicud over the past week.

In the week it has been out, Kid Cudi’s Indicud has been well-received by the masses. As promised, Kid Cudi went all out with this album. Boasting collaborations with Too $hort, Kendrick Lamar, RZA, and A$AP Rocky, Kid Cudi made it all fit. Kid Cudi showed off his range on such singles as “Solo Dolo, Part II” and “Afterwords” with Michael Bolton and King Chip.

Pushing the music envelope, Kid Cudi has released one of hip hop’s more artistic albums in the form of Indicud.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: Styles P – “Float”

FloatBy Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Though he flies under the radar, Styles P has become hip hop’s go-to guy. Every year, fans have come to rely on a new Styles P album. His sixth studio album, Float, came as a complete surprise. Styles P teamed up with the legendary producer, Scram Jones, for his new album, Float, released through Nature Sounds.

Styles P kept Float short and sweet, as it is his flow over twelve Scram Jones beats. A very modern album, it reminds the listener of the golden era of hip hop. New York legends, such as N.O.R.E., Jadakiss, Raekwon, and Sheek Louch appear on the album. Of course, Styles P would put The L.O.X. on his album, but it all properly fits.

Float is definitely a great album and should receive much more attention than it probably will. Styles P is a gifted lyricist, as is Scram Jones a producer, and they show this on their joint album. But, the only pitfall is the length of the album, as it is over as soon as it stars.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: Rich Boy – “Break the Pot”

Break the PotBy Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Unfairly, Rich Boy was never given a chance from the critics his first time around. A club banger, “Throw Some Ds,” was critically panned and his self-titled debut album was scoffed at. Few realized the lyrical abilities Rich Boy had underneath his Alabama drawl, his trademark.

His second time around, Rich Boy came out at a time when the game is much different than it was in 2007. The internet was taking over then, now it has become the new primary form of media. This means, there is something for everyone and Rich Boy gave everyone something to enjoy with Break the Pot.

Not only did Rich Boy unleash his lyrical prowess, he also showed his artistic range, as he went hardcore on “Real Mutha Fucka” with Maino, Hemi, and Mista Raja. On the other side of things, Rich Boy also proved he could make consistent hits with his Bobby V-assisted “Everything About You,” which sounds geared for radio. Rich Boy went all out for his Break the Pot LP.

Before all the other rappers, there was Rich Boy representing the Deep South and he, thus far, is the one with the best material out, as it currently stands. Break the Pot is indeed a Southern classic and an album worth checking out.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 8/10

Album Review: Tyga – “Hotel California”

Hotel California officialBy Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Depending on how it is thought about, Tyga is back with either his second or third studio album. Before the end of 2012, Tyga announced he would have another album out early in the year 2013. Starting 2013 out, the Los Angeles hip hop scene has done very well for itself and Tyga’s Hotel California was the first major release of the year.

On the album, Tyga continues his brand of music and delivered a standout single with his track, “187,” later named “Dope.” Rick Ross is featured on the single, which has since become a club anthem. Last week, Tyga released the “For the Road” single with Chris Brown.

Since Tyga started out, he has always put out decent, entertaining music. Tyga keeps this up on Hotel California. His albums consist of the usual collaborators, as in addition to Rick Ross and Chris Brown, Game, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, and Future, appear on the album. But, “Hit ‘Em Up” with Tupac and Jadakiss is a standout track.

Tyga has always been good at making hit records and has continued making hit records on his latest album. Hotel California is a good album and one of the first major releases of 2013. But, with Lil Wayne’s album dropping just two weeks ago and albums coming from his label-mates, including Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Ace Hood, this year, Tyga will be overlooked within his own camp, let alone the rest of the game this year. However, anyone in need of listening to good music from the big names will need to cop Hotel California.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 6/10

Album Review: Tyler, the Creator – “Wolf”

Wolf 2By Hardcore Critic
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Two summers ago, the mainstream hip hop world had the chance to formally meet Tyler, the Creator and his Wolf Haley alter ego. Quickly, Tyler, the Creator was established as a force in hip hop and he appears impartial through it all. Goblin reached a bigger fan base and set the stage for Wolf.

Coming eleven months after, Tyler, the Creator initially planned to release the album, Wolf helps to get the audience in the mood for spring. While the calendar reads April, it still feels more like February in most places. But, Tyler, the Creator shut the game down with his Wolf LP.

Boasting collaborations with, of course, Odd Future and former member, Casey Veggies, the third Tyler, the Creator album showed a different side of him. Previously, Tyler, the Creator established himself through the shock of his lyrics. This time around, Tyler focused more on the music and he dumped zinger after zinger.

From the Intro, it is clear Tyler, the Creator is here to show the hip hop world he can do something besides shock everyone with his statements. Everyone who said Tyler, the Creator “can’t rap,” were in for a major surprise if they took the time out to listen to Wolf, which is probably one of 2013’s best albums here in the opening months. Though Tyler, the Creator was very current on Wolf, the tone of the album is reminiscent to the golden era of the 1990s in both sound and the way the album flows.

Of course, there are some who will never catch on to Tyler, the Creator. While everyone may not like him, his artistry should be respected, as he remains one of hip hop’s most-creative talents. He fits right in with his frequent collaborators, Frank Ocean and Pharrell, who appear on Wolf. Other collaborations come from Erykah Badu and Odd Future cohorts including Earl Sweatshirt and Domo Gensis.

Perhaps, years from now, hip hop critics will look back on Wolf and regard it as at least a very special album, if not a classic. Those who like alternative hip hop fused with old school and witty lyrics will be in for a treat, as Tyler, the Creator dominated this spectrum from one end to the other.

Hip Hop Vibe’s Rating: 9/10