Far from a Sophomore Slump

Gunna Reveals Tracklist and Cover Art for New Album 'WUNNA' | Complex

New music has been coming out. A ton of it. I can’t say I’ve been super on top of it. Lately I’ve been heavy on the pods. But thanks to a couple friends with similar taste we always end up hearing about all the different albums and giving them a sampling. If there’s one positive to come out of quarantine, it’s that artists are not holding back as far as putting out music and interacting with fans. Whether it’s hosting live sets, playing unreleased music, or putting out smaller projects to hold you over until the next album drops, our ears are definitely getting a little spoiled. Honestly, a ton of huge names have put out some really good albums. Some have definitely put out some mid with hits mixed in. And others might have flopped a little. Overall, it’s all been pretty fun to listen to. If we are saying quarantine started in the middle of march, here are some artists that have put out albums you might want to check out: Drake, Future, Polo G, Buddy, Westside Gunn, Tory Lanez, and it goes on and on. But while some of these albums have been in heavy rotation, one has stuck out amongst all the rest.

Now I know this is extremely premature, but this new Gunna tape is that shit. As far as a little backstory on my personal following of Gunna (because no matter what music will always be subjective to someones taste and opinions): aside from songs he had been featured on, Drip Harder (his collaboration tape with Lil Baby) was the first time I was consistently hitting play on Gunna tracks. Fast forward to his “debut album” Drip or Drown 2 and to me it was a flop. The only song I paid attention to was 3 Headed Snake, one for the Thugger feature but also because it was charting at the time. While I know he has a ton of hits from mixtapes, we just aren’t talking about that right now. Sure, I loved his features that came out in between but it just seemed like too much of the same sound (I felt this about his tapes too, it had a *new* but similar sound and flow). I probably missed out on some good songs in between on that album, but it just wasn’t doing it for me. I tried to go front to back but couldn’t. But with Wunna, it really is just a whole different vibe. I took a small chunk of time Friday night to listen, and immediately thought some tracks were hot. Next morning I ran it front to back and my initial hunch was right: this album was hitting. Hard. 

While I’ve always liked Gunna, he has been way more of a feature artist for me. Add a verse from him over beats with a certain type of vibe and it’s a smash. Team him up with Baby or Thug and it’s a home run. He has a pretty good ability to match the flow of the beat, fast or slow, and can deliver catchy bars even if sometimes it takes multiple listens to actually decipher what he’s saying. On that first listen Friday night, I got through the first 5 songs in order, actually stopping in the middle of the 5th track (which was somewhat sacrilegious, as it was in the middle thug featuring on the track). I quickly couldn’t believe what I had just heard: four solid songs that featured Gunna on his own. I hadn’t looked up from what I was doing while listening, so I had to go back to find the 2 where I was really floored. Argentina and Feigning were the two tracks that really caught my attention, and I probably play them both once-to-twice a day as of recent (this has held true to the day this was posted: Wednesday). To me, the tracks where Gunna is solo on the beat are the ones that I really enjoyed for this project. And I think those first four songs are the hardest string of songs on the album. Other no-feature songs that are also getting a ton of playtime are Skybox, Met Gala, Rockstar Bikers and Chains, and Do Better.  

Gunna’s rise to fame was with a ton of his peers who are currently sitting with him on the upper tier of the rap game currently. I first heard both Wheezy and Turbo on Gunna and Lil Baby’s tracks. Along with Tay Kieth (think Yes Indeed), this crew has been budding for the past couple of years and now are go-to producers for artists both young and old. The same can be said about a Gunna or Baby feature. While some of their beats sound similar and always incorporate sounds they are famous for, the beats on this tape really are “outta here”. From crazy trappy robotic beats to beautifully constructed string samples, the beats selected by Gunna and his team really are next level. Along with this Mount Rushmore of globally recognized producers, we get a couple beats from a relatively less known Taurus,who has chefed up beats for Gunna and Thugger plenty of times. One of my favorite beats on the album Skybox was cooked by Taurus. Bottom line: some of my favorite beats of 2020 so far have been on this album. 

And to top off this album analysis, we must lastly give credit to Gunna again. First, for selecting features that really compliment him. Obviously we knew that Thug and Baby were going to pull up on a song or two. Travis and Roddy both also work well with Gunna and you can feel each of them feed off the energy of the other. Gunna on this album really finds different flows and cadences for his raps, and I think that is something that shines the brightest of all the stars in this album. He raps in fast paced pockets we aren’t used to hearing. Whether he is matching and going along with his feature, or completely going to the beat of the drums, Gunna is proving that he isn’t a one trick pony. Before this album I thought Gunna for me was purely a feature artist. I thought I would only toss Gunna on if I was vibing that auto-tuned style and barely-legible lyrics. Boy was I wrong! I have now been listening through WUNNA close to once a day front to back. And haven’t gotten tired of it (yet). Let’s see how long it’ll last. 

Quarantine Listens Pt.1

We have a lot of time on our hands. Whether we like it or not, we are going to be stuck in the same routine for a while. Working from home, not really leaving the house, and seeing whoever you live with all day long are going to be very real circumstances for the time being (and most likely quite some time after). If you dwell on it too much, you are going to bum yourself out. Remember: it is for the greater good. The quicker we oblige to social distancing and quarantine practices, the quicker we can get out of the very funky time (hopefully). With all this free time on our hands and about a quarter of the social interactions we are used to on the daily, you need some noise to fill the gaps. Music is obviously a great choice (and that, we will be saving for pt. 2), but sometimes we need to switch it up. Ever listen to a podcast? Well, now’s the time to start. Here are some recommendations per the writers interests and biases (with duration included, as some are into short-form and others into long-form):

MUSIC

The Joe Budden Podcast (Long)

This podcast got me through transitioning from working in places that required interaction with customers to working in an office space. While I have loved all my previous and current coworkers, there are certainly times where I just need to plug in and focus to get things done. I felt often that music I was familiar with I would sing along or get easily sidetracked. Locking into a podcast of just banter was one of the best ways I could effectively get work done (at the time, this was mainly copywriting so it wouldn’t side track my word flow on docs). The Joe Budden Podcast is predominantly a music podcast, starting with roots in hip-hop but now covering most everything music related (from releases to the business to specific artists, even to Joe’s music career). The more you listen, the more you start to know about each of the characters and get the jokes that often fly under the table. In it’s evolution, they also cover current events and just about anything that makes headlines. The JBP is for sure the podcast I listen to most, and haven’t missed an episode since 217 (they are now on 334). 

Dissect (Medium)

https://open.spotify.com/show/2b025hq3gJ17tQdxS3aV43?si=jmpKwZkRTjW_MF8Wgz0sYA

This music podcast differs starkly from the JBP. It’s main contributor is Cole Cuchna, a music nerd much like myself, but he is on a completely different level. Dissect takes iconic albums and breaks them down song by song, really taking a deep dive on underlying themes and even the construction of modern music. His selection is for sure Hip-Hop based, but covers some of the most critically acclaimed albums, from KDots TPAB and DAMN to Kanye’s MBDTF. I started with the Kanye album, and by the time I was finished I would argue that MBDTF is probably the best album of the 2000s. While some of it might be a little too in depth on musical notes and history, it does feel awesome to finish a season and have a whole new understanding of an album you already loved.   

SURF

Lipped the Surfers Podcast (Short-Medium)

https://open.spotify.com/show/6QZX2yvefx8sUdIWEeDa94

The first surf podcast I really took a liking to and since I’ve I listened and enjoyed every episode. The two hosts carry the show quite well, one a more average surfer and one an ex-QS surfer turned coach. They both typically tend to have varying perspectives, but always are crushing salt lagers (beers) in unison. Whether it’s contest wrap-ups, contest previews, fantasy surf picks, or the odd guests, they have classic surf banter you and your mates have. They definitely are tapped in to surfing, and especially that coming from their homeland (Australia). It is always nice to hear from the ex-QS surfer (Cahill Bell-Warren) as he has had a wildcard spot on the CT and has grinded the QS for quite some time. Now a surf coach, it’s funny to hear him talk either ultra technical as far as surfing or aussie-slang heavy about surfs or nights out on the piss. 

L8 Night with Choccy

https://open.spotify.com/show/6zEvoIxlqCO3UUrzoz9Yfh

Guilty bias since my dad was a guest on this one (you even can here me chime in on occasion), I actually had listened to the podcast before the invite was extended. The surf world is massive, and there is a lot going on in between the CT surfers, huge corporate brands, and just the culture itself. L8 Night and Choccy do a great job highlighting the more low key but integral parts of surfing’s upbringing. Whether it’s lifelong shop owners, people who steered some of the biggest brands before buyouts, or small groups of surf-minded individuals (companies or boardrider clubs), they cover it all. Both lifelong rippers and both currently working in the industry, it doesn’t get much more core. Whether it’s surf talk, brand talk, or just about anything surrounding the sport or the industry, these guys have the inside scoop.

BONUS: The Lineup and Forerunners 

https://www.worldsurfleague.com/watch/431187/the-lineup-with-dave-prodan?playlistId=431187&s1=watch

https://www.surfline.com/series/forerunners

I really like The Lineup. For me, I am guilty of listening to them all but really only love the ones based on the guest. One thing I love about every single episode though is the lightning round: 10 questions for the guest. My favorite to hear people’s response to is best & worst person to share a session with.

Forerunners is a Surfline-powered podcast that explains wave forecasts to their perspective zones. I couldn’t put it as a favorite since it covers everywhere, and I don’t need to listen to the east coast forecast if I ain’t gonna be over there. But I do love to get the most in-depth breakdown on surf if there is a forecast that looks promising.

Perspective

YNK (Medium)

Mike Stud has always been an artist I’ve been fond of since I found him. While I do like a ton of his songs, his personality at first is what sold me. I was tipped off by a friend to check him out around sophomore/junior year of college, and then fell into the vortex of his Tourings Boring series. One of the earliest vlogs for musicians (salute Wiz Khalifa with DayToday), it follows Stud and his childhood friends in all sorts of debauchery and trouble a couple of lower to mid-20 year olds could get into. Super loose, he was a party guy. When I listened to the first episode of the pod, I realized he had definitely made a lifestyle switch. Post break-up, Mike took his time to slow down and find himself, and in the process became very spiritual. He has taken the podcast platform to interview his friend circle and beyond: fellow musicians, top-level athletes, and entrepreneurs. You can cherry pick the people who you are familiar with, watch ’em all, or listen to their friendly banter when they are sans guests and just with the Steves. 

Airplane Mode (Short) 

https://open.spotify.com/show/14Lz5tpJshLyqUV4bDSdE7

Most of the pods spotlit during this post are in the middle or on the longer side. For me, I typically like to save podcasts for longer periods of time. However, there are some bite-sized podcasts out there that really give you a bang for your buck as far as quality content in a smaller package. While one that comes to mind is the NYTimes podcast The Daily, it recently got a little too corona crazy for me to want to listen to. The GQ podcast Airplane Mode gives you easy to digest tidbits of information, coming from all sorts of different people. From trainers to artists to writers, they all cover topics that they can transfer valuable info based on experience. From 30 minutes to an hour, with the odd long form podcast in there, Airplane mode is good to just get a quick fix. And I always gotta stay true to the GQ brand. 

2 Random 1s

The Nintendads (Short-Medium)

https://open.spotify.com/show/2L0Q8ut4bEk988B7y55H9t?si=2UR80Nb_TVO8Xll7GbGa1g

Here’s some shameless self(brother)-promotion. My brother recently beat me into getting into the podcast space (more on that potential later) by starting a pod with two of his closest friends. One thing brought them together when they were younger and it’s something they all still do currently, and that one thing is their love for classic nintendo games. Enter the Nintendads, as these 3 fathers chop it up about game news, express their biases, and overall just goof around. I gotta put some respect on the brozay, as they are only getting more and more quality. While I can’t always follow the subject matter, we all grew up on nintendo games, so the nostalgia just hits home. My one beef with theirs is that there is no video to go along with (while it is understandable since they do not live near each other). Knowing how all of them are, it would be pretty good to see their facial reactions to certain topics. 

The Medium Rare Podcast (Short-Medium)

This one is my newest discovery on the podcast front. It is for sure my guilty pleasure podcast. It is no way embarrassing, but sometimes I just think to myself “why am I watching this”. It pretty much details the late-night antics and clout-driven activities between 3 close friends with money. While I am sure if me and my buddies somehow attained a nice amount of loot and a social following, we would be doing the same shit. In a nutshell, it covers girls, going out, fashion, and food. The food part is definitely what first drew me in, as it is interesting to hear their opinions about different food scenes (although it is all very high-end dining, which I won’t be partaking in anytime soon). But like I said, I got sucked in and now am playing catch up. It will act as an inspiration for when we are off quarantine and back to sending it (that’s some shit they would say). This is one I’d say is essential to watch, just because you can see how close of friends they are based on the body language and jargon between them. 

$QUAD GOALS

If you haven’t caught onto it yet, my favorite genre of music currently is rap. While I tend to believe I have a pretty diverse interests in music, if you walk into my room or my car rap is playing. It is currently my playlist for just life. Depending on my mood, I could jump to reggae or a softer rock or even some electric music. But so far, the playlist for daily activities is rap heavy. One of my favorite classifications of a rap song is a posse cut.

A posse cut by Wikipedia definition is a popular form of song in hip-hop music that involves successive verses by four or more rappers. This usually consists of each rapper essentially going blow for blow on each other, not so much in a roast manner but more of wanting to be the guy with the best verse. You don’t want to be the guy that signals for the skip of the song. Posse cuts have long been around; it was hip-hop groups of earlier times that popularized him.

Not to discredit these, but I really like the posse cuts that are between different crews and people. Sometimes posse cuts can get redundant if you are used to hearing the same rappers spit flows together. It is when we get a bunch of different cats spitting on the cypher that we get the energy that is infectious and gets us to sing along like we are on the mic. This isn’t to be confused with a label spitting together. I also really enjoy when the beat goes on and on, not just 4 people spitting on the beat. This thing better be over 4 minutes and filled with heat. Here are 5 posse cuts to help you get through a dull duration of your day.

 

Recently Released Roundup

Here is what has been jamming in the headphones at work and slapping on the speakers in the CRV:

Upon finishing this, I noticed I didn’t mention The Plugs I met, by Benny the Butcher. So instead heres a video so you can learn more (it might be my most played of them all).

Revenge of the Dreamers 3 – Dreamville

With a star studded roster of both rappers and rhythm-ers, this album was bound to be good from the get go. Although I kind of wanted to dislike it to due to a pal of mine being one of Dreamvilles biggest fans. Nonetheless, this tape was jammed packed with heat from the first track. A hard-hitting beat + a feature from Dababy = happiness. Along with having multiple heater tracks that just slap (especially in the car) there are songs for just about any mood. As far as groups, this tape is up there for a cohesive, pleasing to the ear project. It also might have 2 of the better interludes I’ve heard in a while (Wells Fargo + 1993).

FAVS: The 1st 3 (Under the Sun, Down Bad, Lambotruck), Sleep deprived

 

BANDANA – Freddie Gibbs + Madlib

Freddie Gibbs absolutely bars out on this thing. I mean, at this point it is pretty expected you are just going to hear bone-crunching bars and gritty beats. Madlib teamed up with Gangsta Gibbs for the second rendition of a joint project, and the two again show their chemistry is unmatched. Last summer when Gibbs and Currrensy teamed up on Fetti, I was surprised at how well the two matched. It kind of just shows Gibbs can flex no matter whom he is paired up with. With a great string of lyrical features and a catchy Paak. Chorus, this thing is in constant rotation.

FAVS: Palmolive, Crime Pays, Cataracts

 

ERYS – Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith has always been an artist that has a couple songs that I really can jam to. Both this new album and SYRE have some awesome songs, and overall when you listen to them front to back put you in a musical scenery. ERYS was more of a chopped up and raw version, with gritty beats (one using the sound of him shaving his dreads) and wavy vocals. While I tend to cherry pick this project, the two ASAP featured songs and the Kid Cudi feature have been on constant repeat. I think I need to immerse myself in the album as a whole, but overall ERYS and SYRE both are a good listen.

FAVS: Chateau, On My Own, Ghost Remix, Summertime In Paris

 

Let’s Rock- The Black Keys

I am going to steal this from the pitchfork, but I believe it sums it up: the album title is called let’s rock, and that exactly what we are going to do. With just a classic black keys sound, this album has been a go to for the speaker on the beach. With enough melody coupled with hard guitar riffs, it makes for an enjoyable listen. Much like the Dreamville Tape, there is a varying amount of songs to compliment different moods and occasions, from mellowing out to amping up.

FAVS: Under The Gun, Shine A Little Light

 

OASIS – Bad Bunny + J Balvin

While I can’t entirely understand what is being said, this joint kind of just screams a summer vibe. From more poppy songs to deep trap hits, Bunny and Balvin cover all the bases on this dual project. This thing has to have Central and South America jumping, since they are the two biggest Latin stars at the moment.

FAVS: CUIDAO POR AHÍ, LA CANCIÓN

 

Perfect 10 – Mustard

Mustard has a pretty firm grasp on recruiting some of the hottest rappers to join his projects when they come around. I got to salute him always putting on the CA rappers to help blow up his fellow statesmen. This tape has a lot of different sounds and the beats are A1 as usual. Mustard pretty much does it all on his own, and just cherry picks the features as the icing on the cake. While I don’t love every song, some have been in heavy rotation. The album couldn’t end better than with the track Perfect Ten.

FAVS: On God, Baguettes in the Face, Ballin, Perfect Ten

 

Late Night Feelings – Mark Ronson

Mark Ronson enlists an all female crew for a slew of songs that can kick in the club or on the beach. While this is not my main genre of listen, I always tend to lean more towards female vocals on Edm type joints, so this is more up my alley in comparison to other albums in the genre. I don’t have as much to say on this one, since I don’t bump it nearly as much as the others. However, I threw it on shuffle for a beach day and the sounds complemented the sunshine perfectly.

FAVS: Find U Again, Truth, 2 AM

 

Bonus: Acid Rap – Chance The Rapper

Enough has already been said about this piece of work. As my favorite Chance project, this thing hits home with the nostalgia and also the fact I don’t have to switch to my apple music library just to play cocoa butter kisses.

FAVS: Cocoa Butter Kisses, NaNa, Favorite song

SK Level Delivers a Hot New Album

Like a bullet from a gun it burns. The opening lyrics to grime MC Skepta’s new Album Ignorance Is Bliss (this is of course, if you admit the “big smoke” and “SK level” ad-libs). Skepta comes into this album 3 years post Konnichiwa, an album that was highly praised and surely leap frogged him into the artist he is today. It got him featured on big artist’s records like A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti. It got him matching tattoos with hip-hop mega star Drake. And surely also put him in the space were most people would use that album as the benchmark. Ignorance Is Bliss had to be better. The people have been waiting! While I can’t say I was ever the biggest Skepta fan, I always enjoyed his persona and his affinity with fashion much like some of my favorite rappers. This being said, I definitely was caught off guard with the dissatisfaction some listeners had with this album. This is for sure for me one of my favorite drops of 2019.

First of all, the production is bonkers. I can’t remember the last time I heard so much synth and electronic sound in an album when the artist still spits hard bars into the microphone. After listening to some interviews, it sounds as though Skeppy had his hands all over the project, especially in the production aspect. I always think some of the best and most unique beats come from artists that can chop it up. Names like Kanye, Andre 3stacks, Tyler the creator, J Cole, and the late Mac Miller come to mind as those who can spit but also take unique sounds and mash them up into beats. Like stated, the production on this thing is nuts. Some songs can definitely ring a little too loud, but much like any album certain songs require certain moods.

Speaking of moods, we get Skepta at his most vulnerable in this one. Talking about having a kid and growing up definitely make this album seem like Skepta is in a happy place as far as how he has matured and looks at life differently. It is interesting to think at one point his children will listen to this and wonder what their father really was like at this time in his life. Skep is at his most happy, but definitely confronts some of the trials and tribulations that led up to this point.

The features on this album go hard. Skeppy kept it diverse and cultured with the features, enlisting artists from all over the globe. The hooks are often very different form the verses, giving a good switch of energy from when Skepta has bar-ed you to death with heavy flows. My favorite outsource of talent has to be on Glow In The Dark with Lay-Z and Wizkid singing the chorus. It does help break up how unique Skepta’s voice is. Sometimes if you hear it for too long, it sounds monotonous and just a little too much accent (I get past it, but others find it a deterrent). The only feature missing was one from the guy A$AP (can we get another Praise The Lord?).

Coming in at a digestible 40 minutes, it is pretty easy to run this project back (turbo) and play the shit out of it. Some songs can mold into your favorite playlists, whereas I really enjoy either playing it front to back or on shuffle, just going in full SK level mode. The greaze is strong with this one. While I wonder why so much distaste is garnered to this project (not so much distaste, but few giving it as much praise as I), it makes sense if you hold him to the Konnichiwa standard. Having not dived as deep into that project, this is one album from Skepta that will stay in rotation for quite some time. It will definitely make me go back and bump more of his discography, and appreciate his total body of work. In this instance, ignorance is really bliss as far as my enjoyment of this album.