Wednesday, January 16, 2013


This is the new era, the era of the pros.

So why then, on what assumes to be music's most widely respected, trusted news source, aka Rolling Stone, do music reviewers insist on limiting their examinations and analysis of art to a mere paragraph or two?

The successive staffs of Rolling Stone have been providing readers with well-respected lists, reviews, news coverage, and opinion pieces since 1967, with no other significant rival to contest their dominance.

Until the music blogs came along.

Sure, the capital income for Rolling Stone squanders that of leading Hip Hop websites. But more readers and viewers are continuously turning to indie or mainstream music coverage sites to listen to new songs, gain insight from thorough editorials, or simply stay up-to-date on the ever-changing landscape that is the music industry.

One of the principle reasons for this slow but steady shift from established, print issued magazines to indie-essenced, steady-posting blogs and websites can be definitively explained through the use of one word: laziness.

Long.Live.A$AP, the fantastic debut album by Harlem born, Houston-rap infused artist A$AP Rocky (which dropped yesterday and leaked about a month earlier)was reviewed by Rolling Stone writer Simon Vozick-Levinson. I have no issue with the rating given, a respectable 3.5 / 5 stars. I have an issue with the extremely short, substance lacking 230 word 'review' that effectively spent two sentences total on providing some opinion about the actual content. 75 % of the 'review' is spent talking about the album's precursor, the also excellent Live.Love.A$AP mix tape, or the names of high-caliber features and producers. While this information is important, it almost entirely lacks any real opinionated or reflective response to the actual music.

Of course, the reader's time is precious. In this day and age, there is always something to be done, and when there is not, there is always an abundance of ways to spend (or waste) time. I am not advocating for multi page reviews--save that for the interviews and editorials. What I am advocating for is more substance.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Look into the Mind of Ab-Soul: Longterm Mentality

When "Real Thinkers," the first song off of Ab-Soul's Longterm Mentality, kicks off, you get the feeling that your about to listen to something important. The slow, all-encompassing synths and dark pianos that seemingly shift smoothly across the brain from ear to ear create a haunting  backdrop that suits the title perfectly, as if a philosopher is about to grace the listener's ears with words of knowledge. When the assumed philosopher Ab-Soul, a member of Kendrick Lamar's Black Hippy group, makes his initial appearance, his voice strikes foremost, displaying a unique tone that is raw and barely restrained, like he is about to burst at any given moment. The backdrop meshes well with his vocals, and it is not until half way through the first verse that he exhibits his capability to use rare and extremely effective flows:

"Sublime rhyme and reason being why/ I am I/ sayonara if you can't keep up with the ride"

The single line contained two separate sets of internal rhyme schemes, one consisting of 4 distinctive words (lime/rhyme/why/I) and the second consisting of 2 back-to-back (reason/being), and Soul manages to perfectly execute the feat with precision while somehow hinting at an anger within him. This is only a small example of what the Black Hippy rapper is capable of.

Ironically, the chorus, which urges the listener to open up their views and accept what they normally would not consider (we're looking at you, Bill O'Reilly), Soul does not touch on that concept well in the song. Sure, he echoes the words of the chorus in his verses, but he does not provide an explanation or reason being for why and how the listener should do so. The lyrical content, while strong in wordplay, can seem sporadic at times throughout the album and he never rests on one point, which prevents him from reaching the potential he evidently has.

This inconsistency can be seen throughout the entire album, not only in the subject matter (and not just within songs, but within verses), but in the overall quality of the songs. The successes of "Real Thinkers," for example, are immediately overshadowed by the chorus, as well as the repetitive and dull backdrops, of "Gone Insane." The poor beat choice of "Gone Insane" is redeemed by a more full backdrop in "Loosen My Tie," yet the chorus is repetitive and only barely tolerable.  After an impressive and introspective record in "Nothing New" that connects back to the feeling that "Real Thinkers" provided, "Hell Yeah" is an example of an out-of-place, attempted banger whose respectable message is ruined by the yelling, and obnoxiously crooned "yeah's" of Soul and Black Hippy friend ScHoolboy Q. The album appears to be taking a turn for the worst when Kendrick Lamar, in typical fashion, outshines Soul on his own song.

Fortunately, the intended mood of the album is recaptured on "Top Dawg Under Dawg," where Soul flows as easy as water contemplating his situation and current standing in the rap game, while mocking the artistic industry of Hollywood:

"You would have thought I was infatuated with being underrated instead of renowned/ got me feeling like King David before the Crown."

"They told me break a leg, now I'm an amputee."

In "Almost There," Ab-Soul showcases a capability for storytelling and breaks down the meaning of longterm mentality, as the album continues its redemption from half of the preceding tracks. Once more, however, the chorus is extremely repetitive to the point where it appears as if little thought actually went into its writing process.

The album tops off with "#LTM," (Longterm Mentality), beginning with a beautiful sample and a sense of rainfall that hints at a Parisian influence. Soul attempted an introspective approach to end his album, and he succeeded. The final song is without a doubt one of the bright points of the album, as the beat and lyrics are on point. What really set the song apart from the others was that the concept for the album was  pulled together by Soul, who breaks from his rapping and begins to talk, looking back from the future at dropping this album, in addition to the release of the following street album Longterm Mentality 2 (available for download). Essentially, it was Soul analyzing his mindset from years past and observing how his longterm mentality played out, and how he will continue to have that mentality for the future.

Despite its setbacks, Longterm Mentality is a good album that deserves a look, and if you like what you hear, buy the album. Ab-Soul, given the creation of a more cohesive album, is a promising Hip Hop artist who, along with the likes of Top Dawg label mate Kendrick Lamar, Big Krit, and others, is a sign of good things to come for music.

Our Rating: 7/10