Toro Y Moi addresses his flaws flawlessly in his new project.

Usually,  I don`t appreciate the term of “transcending genres” because I believe it takes away from a certain culture, which many people have died trying to uphold. That is certainly the case when dealing with hip-hop, and how some of these new artists are trying to mesh hip-hop with pop, which does not sit right with me; takes me back to the day Hot 97 started playing Katy Perry. But periodically, a dope artist comes around and it is difficult to place them under a certain classification. I had this encounter in 2011, I loved the album “Torches” by Foster the People, and it contained so many different sounds (Hip-hop, psychedelic, rock, etc.), but I was able to play it around anyone and they would enjoy at least a few songs if not the whole track list. Come summer of 2017, and I find myself listening to one album that audibly takes care of my ears for every sound they desire. “Boo Boo”, Toro Y Moi`s newest project, has undoubtedly become my soundtrack for this summer for obvious reasons. I first heard of Moi in 2014 after he did some tracks with a fellow Bay Area artist Kool A.D., who I am also a big fan of, since then I have been keeping up with his music, and his exceptionally abstract music videos. Each track on this album follows the other, almost like a storybook, with each song representing a chapter. The album begins with “Mirage”, which kicks off with an electro-funk bassline and dope sample (all produced by Toro), and him crooning about how he is high as a kite just trying to have fun with a female who seems to be looking too into the situation. Moving into track 2,“No Show” kicks off with a deeper synth and shows more emotion right from the get. This track describes a recurring theme Moi expresses in this album, how his unexpected worldwide stardom has affected his personal relationships and life in general. It seems there is a woman from the Bay area who he left to pursue his goal, and she did not believe in him enough to go with him, that is a circumstance I am sure a lot of us can relate to. “Mona Lisa”, the third track on the album really gives me a “Foster the People” vibe, with the heavy electric synth and the drum sequence, not to mention Toro singing at a very high note (similar to Mark Foster); this song had a poppy feel but it doesn’t drag on the way pop songs tend to. My favorite song on this project has to be “Inside My Head”, due to its 80s sounding drum and bass line, which drops right away, including the funky synth. This whole album had remnants of 80s music, but this song feels like it can be played at a club present-day, or in the 80s and still fit the time. I love the hook and the way he continues to repeat it “got a tendency to stay inside my head, rather get a piece of what they have instead”; for me the lyrics to this song hit home, I am usually stuck in my own head. I tweeted it before and I will say it again, I truly feel this album can be performed in play form; I feel it is a very theatrical album and I can see pictures as I listen to it. I think Toro Y Moi has nailed it this time; he does the whole no-genre thing perfectly. If you want your summer to be musically sound I would recommend listening to this project, it doesn’t matter what genre you may prefer, I think this album can tickle the fancy of any music lover.



QM is “Still Here”

It is tough to break an image society paints on you, especially when the media obnoxiously drags it on. The press hung on to this man`s name until the hype behind him settled down a bit, proceeding to never talk about his artistry and who he really is. I vowed when I started this blog that I would talk about this man`s artistic genius, rather than the box the media continues to place him in. So when I mention Quentin Miller`s name, if the first thing you think is “ghostwriter”, you clearly have no understanding of his work. I remember randomly running into QM`s clique (WDNGcrshrs) on Youtube back in 2013, loving the sound they were creating, and their videos were simple, but dope. From that time I have kept up with this artists` work, including great projects like “Hey Thanks A lot 3”, “Gunmetal Grey”, and his most recent mixtape “The Essentials Vol.1”, not to mention many great singles. Miller was involved in a critical car accident in 2016, resulting in the amputation of his foot. He reflects on this event quite a bit in his last two tapes, it is evident that it changed his way of thinking and the way he conducts himself. So in June of this year, when Miller dropped “Falco”, I was not surprised at the fact that it was his third project in just 6 months; but I was relieved to hear Quentin`s positive tone in this album. It seems like Miller had a great time making this album with the likes of Pusha T, Hit-Boy and of course his team. QM included his usual style of trap-sounding instrumentals, with exquisite samples from his boy Nick Miles. The album starts with “Still Here”, with a Quentin produced (atmospheric) trap beat and the Atlanta-based rapper applying his usual relaxed, no worries, delivery; he even flaunts his skills a bit stating, “f**k you n****s think it`s 2017 I made this album in a week”, ironically it`s my favorite track on the project. If you know me at all, you know I can`t really f**k with this new “mumble rap” movement, although sometimes the production may be on point. What Quentin does is serve the same kind of beats (with more interesting samples of course), but his delivery is so relaxed that I can still listen to, and think about what he is saying. People argue, why is it necessary to think while listening to music? That is exactly what is wrong with hip-hop these days in my opinion; where rappers used to challenge themselves to deliver lyrics stirring up thought, these days it seems the rappers prefer to turn up the 808s and mumble about nonsense. Of course there are exceptions like Miller, who seems to have respect for the soldiers that fought for the game and its audible through his work. Miller has had a large influence on our production; I believe he has created a new wave for producers, and I must give him credit on account of all the salt surrounding him and lack of recognition for what he has brought to hip-hop; but frankly, QM seems to pay no mind to it and persists doing what he does. I prescribe anyone who has a preconceived notion of this man, to actually listen to some of his sounds including this album, and I promise if you like “real” hip-hop or even trap, you cannot be disappointed.



Freddie Gibbs: The Resurrection

Gibbs continues to impress his fans, never compromising his identity, all while facing controversy.

It is an anomaly in the current state of hip-hop, to run into an MC that can spit 4 minutes straight with no hooks, make sense, all while pleasing the ears. When I learned of Freddie Gibbs in 2014 through his first, Madlib produced album, “Pinata”, it was a breath of fresh air. After beating a bogus case in 2016 that was pinned on him from a random groupie in Austria, and spending 10 (non-guilty) months in an Austrian jail, Gibbs` new tape “You Only Live Twice” expresses his frustration for the legal system and his growing lack of trust towards most people, with the exception of his family. Although the legal system continuously puts this man down, he perseveres and never lets his fans down, recently finishing a U.S. tour this past June in promotion of this project. The project starts with “20 Karat Jesus”, the Pops/ Speakerbomb trap-like instrumental drops hard, followed by the Gary, Indiana based rapper spitting bars in his usual, harsh, Tupac like manner. He makes a lot of references to his “old” life in this project, insinuating that he has made a three-sixty transformation, forcing him to cut off a lot of his past relationships. He has also learned that his “friends” weren`t really who he thought they were. In the last track of the mixtape, “Homesick”, he mentions while he was away from the U.S. in prison, Erica (his baby momma) was the only one to check on him and visit him to make sure he was being treated properly, while his “homies” were at home trying to take what he built. We all learn this lesson one day hopefully, though it’s a tough pill to swallow, but it seems Gibbs` learned the hard way and most probably will be keeping a smaller circle. YOL2wice consisting of only 8 tracks, still managed to have a fairly hype single “Crushed Glass”, which is accompanied by a meaningful music video. My favorite track on this project though, is “Andrea”, first of all, because of the relaxing beat created by Crooklin, SLWJMZ and Pops with a trippy synth sample and captivating bass line. Moreover, what Gibbs is speaking on in the track clearly shows the confliction he seems to have between his new and old lifestyle, not to forget the hilarious voice message in the middle of the song, from his late uncle Big Time Watts (rest in peace) Overall though, this project is one with meaning, emotion and sonically it is great. I hope Gibbs continues to put out raw projects like this and maintains his “realness”, while separating himself from the phonies he mentions on in this project. I can`t wait to hear more from this man, until then this one is on loop mode.



Hov Back to His Roots?

When I started writing this blog, I promised myself I would not write any pieces about megastars; the last thing we need is another cookie cutting blog always looking for the next big hype. But one day later Jay-Z randomly dropped his 13th studio album “4:44”. As a native New Yorker, I basically grew up on Hov; I still remember running to Coconuts record store to purchase the hard copy of “The Blueprint”. I recall his wordplay, swag and flow over Kanye`s melodic and innovative production. So, when I pressed play on the album, track one, “Kill Jay-Z”, dropped and all I could think was, “this s**t is raw as f**k”. I felt like I turned on “the Blueprint 2”, with Jay-z just talking his truths, perhaps taking a shot at Kanye about giving him twenty million for a twenty minute rant. The biggest shot at Kanye West though, is the fact that he did not take part in a single production throughout this album, which I certainly missed sonically; I guess I became too accustomed to Watch the Throne-esqe bangers. Credit to Kanye`s mentor, No I.D., on producing the whole project, its apparent through the sample choice that Jigga man is attempting to bring back his old style. Additionally, he brought Young Guru back to take care of his engineering, which definitely gives it that raw, early 2000s feel. I have to be honest though, I wasn`t thrilled with the mixing of this album; maybe Hov should have brought in some young guns to help these older cats with some new game (no disrespect to the OGs). I don`t know, I guess when you call yourself a billionaire, I just expect the production/mixing to be out of this world, but who knows? Maybe Jay-Z was specifically going after that raw feel. Anyways, track two comes on, “The Story of O.J.”, Hov talking business and politics as usual, but this time around, he discusses some truth about the industry and the state of black entrepreneurship. He goes on to call himself a “field n***a” and offer some property investment advice to his listeners. It seems Jay has had enough of people other than those who make Hip-Hop and the culture that surrounds it, profiting off of it- frankly, I agree. I’ve always felt like Hov has not took enough responsibility for black empowerment compared to the amount he profits off his people, but it seems he has turned over a new leaf of consciousness. I just hope his words will turn to action, because honestly, it’s simply words and we have been there done that. My favorite song on this project is undoubtedly “Bam” feat. Damian Marley. I love how Damian kept it gully trench town, and Jay-Z complemented, what to me felt like a Guerilla Black “Compton” style beat, which I must say, goes so hard. Overall, I believe the album is not bad with just 10 tracks and 3 features (one including his mother), it feels like an MC expressing things he felt obligated to, using the form of expression he knows best, and I hope Jay-z continues to raise some of the controversial points he has in this album. I look forward to hearing more truth from this Hip-Hop great.



Jay Worthy and Alchemist take us to “Fantasy Island”

Anytime Alan the Chemist (the Alchemist) is the executive producer on a song, mix tape, album- or whatever, it’s a must listen in my book. As a native New Yorker I can really appreciate his loop formation and style of production, essentially what I grew up listening to. So, as soon as I peeped, “produced by the Alchemist” on Jay Worthy`s new tape “Fantasy Island”, I thought to myself at least the production will be on point, I gotta hear this. But after my first listen, I admitted I was mistaken. Not only are the beats vibey (made my own word) as heck, but this man Worthy can spit bars like a New York n****a, although he claims to be from Compton. The project begins with “Stepping Out” ft. Sha Hef, and of course the Alchemist mixes a dope sample with some guitar sound while Jay Worthy starts spitting with his usual calm persona. Right from the get the tape engulfs you, and the dopest part is how all the tracks flow into one another like a classic mixtape, which makes this a very easy listen. My personal favorite track has to be the second on the project, “Lost my Lex”, just because of how it makes me actually feel like I’m on a fantasy island with the ocean splashing and birds chirping; then suddenly, the beat drops with Alchemist`s signature beautifully cut sample of Junko Ohashi’s “Rouge Et Noir” followed by Worthy stepping in with so much swag, “But f**k it though, lost my lex, back up in my bunker though”. With features like Big Body Bes, Meyhem Lauren, Rugotti etc. this tape definitely gives you that Action Bronson type of feel, which I happen to love. This style of production is one that has definitely influenced us here at Nerlens Snelren, when we create our art. Although the music industry doesn’t always respect this style of rap, and you probably wont attain much fame taking this route, these artists must understand how much people like us appreciate them. Artists that are not just using the esteemed culture of Hip-Hop for their monetary gain, but shining a light on what made this genre of music, a culture and a movement, continuing to show respect to the roots while introducing their contemporary take on it. I look forward to more projects from Jay Worthy and I recommend this project to anyone who understands hip-hop at a deep level, at the same time I suggest those of you kids who don’t know who Biggie is or where hip hop stems from— ahem ahem; turn off the Yachty for a second, open your ears to this, you might just learn a thing or two.



The Red Corolla

I was told my first piece should give the reader insight into what this blog is about, introducing the basis and all, but I say…f**k that. Let`s get right to what actually matters- the music. I chose this mixtape as my first piece to discuss because I believe it embodies what we (Nerlens Snelren) refer to as hip hop. This month Domo Genesis, member of Odd Future, Mellowhigh; followed up his debut solo album with a classic Domo mixtape- “Red Corolla”. The tape consisting of 10 quality tracks, kicks off with the title track (the red corolla) which takes you back to those days when you had to beg your mom to take the car out and if you brought it back with any problems she would slap the mess out of you. The title track ends with Domo yelling to his mom about how the car won’t start, a situation I found myself in countless amounts of time. I love when I feel an artist’s emotion through their music, and this mixtape really gave you that sense of reminiscence and reflection, especially the phone calls and conversations throughout the mixtape between Doms and his friends. I personally feel the best track on the mixtape is “Vintage Doms”, because the title is exactly what it is, and the beat is a loop of genius. If you have bumped Domo in the past (Under the Influence etc.) its easy to see he took it back to the roots on the whole tape, but especially on this track. Reflective Hip-Hop, how I refer to this type of hip-hop, being that while you listen you can reflect on life and be in your thoughts. As opposed to the brainwashing garbage saturating the airwaves, which essentially suppresses your thinking power, this genre of hip-hop gives you the freedom to think and relate. Open your ears for this one and check it out, it might just speak to you the way it has for me.

– Snelren