Driena's Album Reviews
Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon
“ She like the way that I rock
She like the way that I woo ”
Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon was released on July 20, 2020 as a posthumous album by Pop Smoke but helped produced by 50 Cent. After the tragic passing of the upcoming rapper Pop Smoke, the rap community united to be able to release an album complete enough to be enjoyed by fans. As the album has 19 songs, the album ended up being extremely developed and therefore did not feel exploitative of his death. I would have wished for the album cover to be different, but after the monstrosity Virgil Abloh had created, I was happy enough that the producers listened to fans and at least changed the cover art to something different. The album itself has enjoyable beats that fall more in the hype and dance category. Pop Smoke clearly follows the beat, vibe, and flow of each song seamlessly that make his songs smooth and cohesive. It is hard to tell how big Pop Smoke could have been if he hadn’t died early in his career, but the hype brought to his album is most definitely deserved in honoring the music he left behind. All the songs on the album exhibit capacity of being hits, which have proven to be seen through the meme of Woo Back Wednesday, yet some of them do seem to be similar to each other. Compared to his previous albums, he clearly demonstrated growth and talent for rapping, which only seemed to get better with each beat. Without the amazing features on the album though, it would not have been the same, therefore it is unfair to solely judge Pop Smoke on this album as things may have been different due to different circumstances. Overall, the album had a couple of mediocre songs, but most of them exhibited fun, catchy, and hard verses.
When to listen: Anytime on a speaker outside with your friends
Best Songs: “For the Night”, “Mood Swings”, “Dior”
“ I got blood on my hands, I ain't gon' lie
I got mud on my shoes, I ain't gon' lie ”
Lewis Street was released on July 24th, 2020 by J. Cole as a sneak peek for his new upcoming album The Fall Off. This new release caused a lot of excitement from fans (as deserved) and the Spotify app crashed from the amount of traffic on Cole’s page. This EP consists of two singles only, “The Climb Back” and “Lion King on Ice”, both of which seem to be tracks that reflect upon his come-up and what he has seen while being in the rap game. Both of these songs are brilliantly written, with a heavy emphasis on lyricism as Cole talks about the life lessons he has garnered throughout the years. These songs emulate a conversation between the audience and J. Cole himself as if J. Cole is a friend we haven’t spoken to in a while and he opens up to us what he has been going through recently. When J.Cole speaks, we actually listen. The topics range from light-hearted banter about Genius often misquoting his lyrics to the guilt he feels from being a highly proclaimed rapper, but not feeling the fulfillment of being so. “Lion King On Ice” is a bit more metaphorical and melodic than “The Climb Back” while also containing more variety of flow throughout the song which makes the transitions knit together nicely. In “Lion King on Ice”, the ache behind his words is clearly recognized and so well portrayed that it is felt as if it is our own personal ache. I listened to “Lion King On Ice” for a week straight just to properly analyze and internalize what Cole was illuminating through his words. Nonetheless, both of these songs are unique to J.Cole’s previous works and only add to the anticipation of his sixth studio album. Without a doubt, these songs were written in a way that most rappers could never even think about replicating, once again securing the G.O.A.T. status for J. Cole’s storytelling.
When to listen: studying in the late evening in your room while everyone else is asleep
Best Song: “The Climb Back” “Lion King on Ice”
“ 'Cause you gotta prove to the world how you committed,
You got a whole city to inspire ”
Big Sean’s album Detroit 2 was released on September 4th, 2020. The album has 21 songs altogether while releasing singles “Deep Reverence” and “Harder Than My Demons” as previews to the album. Showing love to his city, Detroit 2 is a sequel to Big Sean’s early mixtape, Detroit. Although Big Sean has received criticism for being another “washed up” artist, Detroit 2 proves against that. Every track on the album clearly reflects high levels of production and effort, accompanied by classic lyrics from Sean Don himself. The passion Sean had put in this album is indisputable, as the album exhibited a variety of songs from heart-wrenching, raw lyricism to carefree hype tracks all the way to the narration of stories from figures like Dave Chapelle, Erykah Badu, and Stevie Wonder. The wide selection of songs definitely required several listens before forming proper opinions on, but nonetheless, the album overall definitely felt like a Big Sean album. That being said, there were a couple of songs that had the potential to be a hit, like “Lithuania” ft. Travis Scott, or “Friday Night Cypher” that did not seem to get enough traction to really become mainstream outside the rap community. Not a single song on the album was horrid, but there were definitely “mid” songs that almost diluted the potential of Detroit 2 being a classic. If there were to be fewer tracks, there might have been less room for songs that were not particularly memorable, and therefore really just focusing on branding the album as something more personal and soulful, while also having amazing collaborations that reflect that message and fit the tone of the album. The strongest songs on the album were the ones that reflected some of Big Sean’s old vibes of songs, like “FEED.” But it is clear Big Sean is trying to become a stronger artist by experimenting with certain aspects of producing the album as one, but it is still something that will take some time for him to execute better.
When to listen: this album has so many vibes into one that you could honestly just listen to it whenever.
Best Songs: “Lucky Me”, “Harder Than My Demons”, “Wolves”
“ Tell 'em don't act dumb 'cause I'm dumber
6ix9ine’s album TattleTales was released September 11th, 2020 after the many legal troubles 6ix9ine had. His song “TROLLZ” ft. Nicki Minaj and “GOOBA” were released prior to the album’s release as a preview to what his upcoming album could be. Although Tekashi managed to get features from Nicki and Akon, the album received very poor numbers the first week of its release. Right off the bat, the first song on the album, “LOCKED UP PT. 2”, desperately tries to portray itself as deep as he reflects on his time in prison. My condolences go out to Akon’s back because it must be hurting from how hard he carried the track. The lyricism on all of the tracks were weak, with preschool rhymes drowned in autotune. The beats themselves were adequate and catchy, a bit repetitive, but had the potential to be good party/hype songs. They were quickly ruined with 6ix9ine’s inability to rap about something other than his haters, money, and girls, therefore making none of the songs distinguishable. The album is superficial, but that is to be expected from the type of music 6ix9ine releases, which then in turn makes the album incohesive. Many of the songs are similar to each other, and honestly, 6ix9ine’s lyrics accompanied by screaming make it a genuine headache to listen to with headphones on. There is not much to say about the album as it doesn’t bring much to the table. Hopefully, 6ix9ine can branch out his creativity in music before his inevitable downfall.
When to listen: don’t.
Best Songs: “YAYA”, “TROLLZ”, “LEAH”
“ To be beautiful is to be hunted
I can't change the truth, I can't get you used to this ”
3.15.20 was released on conventional streaming platforms on March 22nd, 2020 by Childish Gambino as a surprise album. The album was streamed on donaldgloverpresents.com for only 24 hours on March 15, 2020, before disappearing until its re-release. As the streaming website did not even differentiate between songs with song names, my superiority complex was at an all-time high for being an elite Gambino fan by listening to this album exclusively before the majority did. I immediately fell in love with it as Bino once again seemed to produce a new album that tested a new style of music, proving he is the king of versatility. He incorporated hip hop, electronica, with R&B to create this extremely experimental album. Without a doubt, he tested hip hop fans with his soulful music that seemed to stem from a spiritual moment in Gambino’s life. But when the album was officially released and I saw that plain white album color and decimal points for songs I lost my mind. I was genuinely mad at Gambino for releasing pi digits as songs instead of his iconic, beautifully crafted album artwork and song titles previously illustrated in Because the Internet and Awaken, My Love!. I knew this album would not get the recognition it deserved because of this unique approach to releasing music, which very much gave me Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered vibes. After thoroughly listening to the album a countless number of times though, it became clear to me why Gambino approached the album the way he did. He seems to give pockets of storytelling within his songs, touching on his relationship with his dad, the feelings of isolation in a world so violent, and the feelings of love under the sun. The album takes a minimalist approach (like, seriously minimalist) in its artwork and labeling to highlight the point of the album, which is at the end of the day, all we have is our human relationship that unveils itself to be true to the heart no matter what happens in life.
When to listen: while drinking lemonade on your balcony, watching the sun in the sky with a slight breeze on a lazy summer afternoon
Best Songs: “12.38”, “19.10”, “53.49”
“ Spent the whole day in my head
Do a little spring cleanin' ”
Circles by Mac Miller was released on January 17th, 2020 as a posthumous album that Mac had been previously working on before his passing. The intent for the album was to complement his previous album, Swimming, to which Jon Brion, his producer, helped complete the idea Mac meant to execute. Circles is a beautiful album, branching away from a classic hip hop feel, to more of a serenade in a blues style. Even though this is a posthumous album, it, in no way, feels rushed or like a cash grab. Mac’s team did a very respectful job of not exploiting Mac’s death for profit, but rather genuinely taking the time needed to complete his project and make it as authentic as possible. Authenticity clearly shines through the project and extraordinarily exhibits Mac’s experimentation with a full-on singing album. Throughout the album, Mac talks about his mental health issues, but it seems to differ from his previous songs, as now he talks about it as less of a struggle, but more of an acceptance. As Mac Miller fans can agree, hearing Mac talk about life, death, and love, evokes a strong emotional response that adds to the great appreciation of the artist that is Mac Miller. He seems to be longing for a different mind than his own throughout the album but leaves shards of hope that he would eventually make it through his issues to achieve that sense of clarity. Mac is utterly lost in his world, and he gives us an angelic insight to what the aftermath looks like. The songs perfectly encapsulate that feeling, with the songs relying heavily on the instrumentals to express ideas words could not. Although the album is not strong and punctual lyrically, it is meant to be a more slow-paced, reflective album about feelings of depression as well as drug use to cope with what feels like a lost cause. Overall, this album seemed like it would have been produced entirely the same if Mac were to be here and exhibits beautifully composed songs that leave the heart to ache.
When to listen: a calm Sunday afternoon outside while the sun sets with your eyes closed
Best Songs: “Good News”, “Everybody”, “Surf”
“ Your new [stuff] ain't good as your old [stuff]
'Til your new [stuff] is your old [stuff], son ”
No Pressure was released on July 24th, 2020 by Logic as a final album before his retirement as a rapper to become a better father for his son. The title itself of No Pressure is parallel to his first debut studio album, Under Pressure, therefore demonstrating the entire journey of Logic’s rapping career. As Logic is known for his lyricism, there had been a lot of pressure, if you will, surrounding his last album to outshine the rest of his projects for proper closure for fans. Logic did exactly that. He didn’t seem to particularly branch out from his previous style of music and try something drastically different, but for his last album, he shouldn’t have done that. He gave his loyal fans authentic music where he opens up about his new life, what he’s learned throughout his experience in the rap industry and overall dropping life knowledge. His beats were remarkably produced, there was unique variation in multiple songs, a variety of flow, songs for different moods, clever puns, and rhymes, along with amazing storytelling. Everything about this album screams authenticity, and leaves a bittersweet feeling in the hearts of fans and even those in the rap game, as Logic proceeds into the next chapter of his life. He wholeheartedly encapsulates the ideology of having your new music be so good that fans feel like it’s the very music that was made before fame and money– just copious amounts of effort and passion. Logic found his way back home and left behind an amazing album for anyone who appreciates high production and lyricism.
When to listen: under the stars at night alone with your thoughts
Best Songs: “Hit My Line”, “Soul Food II”, “Perfect”