Brent Faiyaz starts his new album WASTELAND with a philosophical inquiry: can a man still be fundamentally good with a past tarnished by sins and mistakes? The binary between good and bad has been a theme Faiyaz has played with since his previous album Fuck The World, but on WASTELAND he bares all of his faults and forces the listener to reckon with their perception of him.
But Faiyaz’ journey to become this figure of self-aware hedonism begins in a humble place. By early 2017, Faiyaz had already released music alongside Dpat and Atu as part of the group Sonder, but it was fellow DMV artist GoldLink’s hit “Crew” from that March which expanded the then-21-year-old singer from regional acclaim to the mainstream. By the time of 2020’s Fuck The World, he had fully transitioned into an underground cult figure of insurgent R&B.
Faiyaz’s image on social media seems to have played a major role in the existential discourse of WASTELAND. “VILLAIN’S THEME,” the first of a handful of skits on WASTELAND, features the Maryland singer in conversation with Jorja Smith recalling his penchant for acting toxic as a form of escapism amidst an overwhelming and anxious tornado of soundbites, mimicking the perpetual and mindless noise that fills Twitter timelines and TikTok For You Pages.
He challenges complacent, dichotomous thinking through the album’s conflicting messaging, but also by subverting streaming-era algorithms and popular contemporary R&B. “LOOSE CHANGE” flourishes through the DMV singer’s delicate voice, altered to sway between a crisp bite and a haunted distortion. Backed by piercing strings (which sound inspired in part by violinists such as Los Angeles’ Sudan Archives), the track includes nearly no drums and sets aside hallmarks of traditional song structure for something more organic and amorphous. Where Fuck The World and 2017’s Sonder Son embraced plug-and-play formats, WASTELAND feels more insular, as though it was created in a vacuum, safe from the ubiquitous drone which fills so many playlists.
His latest doesn’t stray too far from his past work, but the inscrutable attention to detail is the closest he’s gotten to nailing his intention. He ascends on the euphoric “ALL MINE,” marrying his corrosive dedication of love to a self-produced army of synths in various stages of crescendo, the notes washing against his voice like waves. Of course, these flashes of transcendence are carefully considered and engineered, but Faiyaz’s ability to construct them to inspire a sense of spontaneity is one of his most powerful gifts.
Sometimes, though, the illusion is broken and an artifice is revealed. Most of this comes from features which feel insincere, as though they were stapled to the project as an engagement boost by a savvy A&R. Fans of the Odd Future rapper may disagree, but Tyler, The Creator’s verse on “GRAVITY” seems more like a play to cross fanbases than it does an effort towards genuine collaboration. His verse is blunt and draws away from the trance of WASTELAND, which is designed to unravel seamlessly. Alicia Keys is a strange choice for “GHETTO GATSBY” and while she was used for at least more than a cliché hook, there are so many other artists who would have filled the role with more chemistry.
Even with a lengthy tracklist, WASTELAND is economical and patient with its time. Songs are given a chance to breathe and arrive at their full potential rather than being sequenced and chopped to appease streaming requirements. Even the album skits are a crucial element to the project, despite their occasional melodramatic tone. The story woven through the skits help propel the songs’ messaging and provide another avenue to experience the album, one more driven by a linear narrative. Without those anchors holding WASTELAND in place the project might feel more aimless and hinged on aesthetics alone.
The inclusion and weight Faiyaz attributes to the skits is defiant, a push back against casual listening. WASTELAND without the skits is still excellent, but through their inclusion Faiyaz is able to elevate the project and add another layer to appreciate. Though for most listeners the skits will quickly become skips, not since the ambient interludes of Frank Ocean’s Blonde have skits more benefited an album.
There’s no firm answer to the album’s fundamental question, but as the darkness of the “WAKE UP CALL” skit makes way for the symphonic swells of the Jordan Ware and Raphael Saadiq-produced “ANGEL,” it appears Faiyaz has arrived at a place where he admits the faults of his behavior and the toxicity of his relationship, but isn’t willing to step away from the one he loves. “But from what I know, you’ll never go away/Don’t ever leave my side, girl I’ll die/But from what I know, you’re always here to stay/You’re an angel in disguise,” he bellows.
It’s not a euphoric ending; it’s not meant to feel clean and tidy. Instead, it leaves the listener to decide if Brent Faiyaz has resigned to complacency, addicted to a situation he can’t control or if he’s learned to accept himself and his flaws.
Every now and then, a different rapper lays claim to being the King of New York. More often than not, the title is one of self-designation, the crown forged from a combination of mythos, ego and momentary attention. The understood consensus is there’ve been several dynasties over the nearly 50 years of Hip Hop’s existence, each anointed via their undeniable skills and ability to capture the zeitgeist: The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, JAY-Z, Big Pun, probably Jadakiss at some point. Ten years ago, Joey Bada$$ seemed poised to become the Big Apple’s newest monarch.
His breakout tape, 1999, was a showcase of pure rapping ability and world-weary wisdom beyond that of the average 17-year-old. It could be argued he and his Pro Era crew were trading in Golden Age nostalgia, but it was coming from a place of lovingly recreating what they’d missed rather than grifting cynical old heads.
But the crown never came. Joey’s debut album, B4.DA.$$, added a larger budget to his throwback sensibilities but despite some high moments at times, treaded water due to under baked writing. By 2013, there’d been more than enough verses opening with the phrase “microphone checker.
2017’s ALL-AMERIKKAN BADA$$ was an attempt to update his sound while engaging with the bleak political realities of America but was too often content to merely scratch the surface of examples of injustice before immediately moving on to the next critique. On 2000, Joey’s first album in five years, he seems less concerned with attaining superlatives or teaching lessons. He’s built a loyal fanbase, pivoted to a successful acting career and doesn’t have much left to prove. In his mind, he’s already one of the greats. He says as much within the first minutes of the album, declaring himself one of the “holy trinity” alongside Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. The record that follows isn’t the important statement he thinks he’s making, but it’s an undeniably fun, engaging, ultimately low-stakes rap album.
As with any Joey Bada$$ project, 2000 looks backward to find its sound. The titular year was a bridge between crate digging producers’ dusty jazz samples and the polished sheen of the jiggy era, so Joey’s team of producers supply him with a much more plush palette. The beats across 2000 are breezy and opulent, billowing in the space between the smooth marble floors and high ceilings of an expensive penthouse.
Pianos and glassy keyboards weave around sweeping string samples, snares diffuse into long tails of reverb. Joey seems right at home in this more silken vibe, gliding effortlessly across each expensive-sounding drum pattern. He’s a joy to listen to — there are few rappers that sound as natural on the mic as Joey Bada$$.
For the most part, he seems invigorated by his time away from music. He’s still able to put together strings of dizzying internal rhymes and eyebrow-raising double entendres. When he raps “it’s a marathon and these muthafucka’s racist” on “Eulogy,” it’s hard not to grin. He challenges himself with different cadences, at times stretching the boundaries of his signature hypnotic staccato beyond conventional bar structure.
A core tenet of Joey’s music is paying homage to his forebears — especially those from Brooklyn — which leads to some beautiful uses of classic patterns. The drifting horn and swinging drums of “Brand New 911” prompt Joey to do a syrupy take on JAY-Z’s loping flow from “Feelin’ It.” Just before the drums drop in the final moments of opener “The Baddest,” Joey raps “Word to Khaled/Yo, they hate to see you winning/They wanna see your life ending/Lights out, striking out in my ninth inning,” curving around the rhythm the way Biggie does on “Juicy.”
For all his technical ability, Joey’s best moments on the album are his most vulnerable. “Survivor’s Guilt,” the emotional heart of 2000, is a touching tribute to both Capital STEEZ, the founding member of Pro Era who died by suicide in 2012, and Junior B, his older cousin and tour manager who passed away after a terrible car accident. The song unfolds as a confessional monologue, as if Joey’s kneeling beside a grave, saying a last peace before leaving a bouquet. He addresses his grief and guilt, lamenting the stigma around mental health made it hard for people to take STEEZ’s depression seriously. Other moments, like the couples therapy of “Show Me” or the admission on “Where I Belong” that his cousin Richie Rich wrote his first verse, chip away the armor to show the beating heart beneath the stoic rapper.
Although 2000 does reach these thrilling highs, the album isn’t without its low points. The rhyme scheme that starts “Make Me Feel” is a string of words that ends in “-ation.” At 17, this would be charming, a marker of a young rapper trying his hardest to grow out of his “lyrical miracle” tendencies. At 27, with a number of mixtapes and studio albums under his belt, it feels a little lazy. References to the Matrix (“Overdosed on blue pills, caught up in the Matrix” from “Eulogy”), condoms (“Lifestyle golden, my n-gga, that’s a Trojan” on “Zipcodes”) and puberty (“my stock like a teenage cock, it stays up” on “Written In The Stars”) seem trite and underwritten. Guest appearances from JID, Larry June and Westside Gunn are all inspired but a soulless Chris Brown drags “Welcome Back,” an already unnecessary sex jam, even further down. Because the production is so airy, it’s easy to let the songs blur together, only to snap back into focus with soul-bearing moments like “Survivor’s Guilt.”
Fortunately, the good far outweighs the bad on 2000. It doesn’t reach the highs the hype promised and, no matter how much he believes it, the album doesn’t make the case for his self-proclaimed G.O.A.T. status. It is, however, a highly listenable, uncomplicated rap album, not burdened by any weighty conceit; a showcase for an MC with a great ear for production and innate rapping ability.
Joey’s not breaking any new ground here, but he doesn’t really have to. He’s not angling to be a momentary King of New York, he’s more interested in building a legacy and — perhaps more than anything – enjoying rap.
Published on: Jul 27, 2022, 7:27 PM
by Eric Diep
During G-Unit’s heyday in the early 2000s, Lloyd Banks served as protégé to 50 Cent. When Interscope entered into a deal with 50’s G-Unit Records to develop artists, the bulletproof superstar tapped up his childhood friends Banks and Tony Yayo to be his first signees.
Within the trio, Banks contrasted 50’s aggressive gangster themes and Yayo’s hype man theatrics. He was bar heavy and made it look easy with his endless punchlines, impressing early mixtape listeners with “The Banks Workout” series and winning Mixtape Artist of the Year at Justo’s Mixtape Awards two years in a row.
As he learned song structure from 50, Banks started to establish himself as a force in his own right. He became a punchline king, rounding into a hitmaker just like his mentor. Banks used this combination to execute 50’s formula to platinum-selling success with his 2004 debut The Hunger for More. Through all the beefs, break-ups and reunions during G-Unit’s prime, Banks was the flex tape that kept the machine together.
While in G-Unit, Banks attempted to try his hand at mainstream rap finding success with “Karma,” “On Fire,” “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley,” and “Start It Up.” But ultimately it wasn’t as fulfilling as it was in his younger years, understanding the work it takes to promote a hit would eat into his family time. In Banks’ later years, his hermitlike style of writing lyrics earned him respect as one of the most underrated emcees in the game. His rhyming style also changed.
Older and wiser, Banks branched out on his own. His mixtapes in the 2010s were lengthy snapshots influenced by the golden era of street rap. When Griselda rappers Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine and Benny The Butcher became the centerpiece for a return to edgy, guttural raps in the 2020s, Banks had a wide-open lane to tap into his South Jamaica, Queens roots and remind people of his resume. Younger artists like Russ understood this, and calling for a Lloyd Banks feature signaled a desire to lyrically spar with the best.
To Banks, The Course of the Inevitable means “to go backwards and remember what you’re doing it for.” So, The Course of the Inevitable 2 comes a year later and arrives at a time when the former G-Unit member’s sword is the sharpest. He’s dropped plenty of sequels for his album and mixtape franchises before, but COTI 2 proves that time has only made Banks more productive and consistent.
COTI 2 is tighter than the initial installment and made for the same ‘real rap’ heads who listen to Griselda, Roc Marciano, Stone God Cooks, Boldy James, and the like, resulting in an album that leans heavy into documenting street lessons learned. Atmospherically speaking, an album that’s this ice cold dropping in the summer is on brand for the randomness of New York weather during this time of year.
When most people want a song of the summer so they can day drink and barbeque, Banks gives listeners songs on crooked apple scriptures (“No Reward”), fake friends who refuse to give you flowers (“Dead Roses”) and playing two sides of the fence (“Don’t Switch”). COTI 2 is pure grittiness, drawing inspiration from when Banks wrote his first raps in his small South Jamaica bedroom to capture the hunger and realness again.
The 40-year-old rapper taps into a similar rotation of features who made appearances on COTI 1. This far along into his career, Banks’ isn’t going to take risks and rap with artists that don’t operate in the same environment as him. The selectiveness works in his favor, as Banks has no problem rhyming with New York’s finest.
Returning guest and most sought-after rapper Benny The Butcher appears on “Living Proof” with another verse of the year contender. Instead of Styles P, who appeared on COTI 1′s “Food,” Banks collabs with another LOX member, Jadakiss, on “Power Steering,” a Top 3 fan favorite — that is if his Twitter responses are anything to go by. Banks raps on the song: “Been underrated too long, now, this shit’s confusing/ My weight is up, anybody in my division is losin’/ Power moves to be made and I ain’t tipping to ’em.”
Conway (“Menace”) and Yayo (“Don’t Switch”) are some of Banks’ strongest collaborators on COTI 2, an example of Banks working with a rapper who was inspired by him and another who has kept him motivated all these years. For fans, Banks is continuing his run with Conway after the reception of “Juvenile Hell” and Banks with Yayo is just pure nostalgia.
Because this is a Lloyd Banks album, it’ll take repeated listens to catch the best lines. Some worth mentioning are on album opener “Impact,” where he raps: “I ain’t gotta aim and come up with hits, my style an Uzi/ Camera lights, I got a lifestyle of clips fresh out a movie.” On “Value of a Check: “Don’t let them pump you up, I’m surgical with it, Alonzo.” On “Dead Roses: “N-ggas gotta see your bloodstream to make your streams go up.” And on “On My Way”: “Back on my clumsy shit, jewels dropping/ My loose leaf found the gems.”
In the current state of Hip Hop, there are active participants who focus on melody and vibes over lyrical substance. With Banks, he’ll give you three verses, a smooth hook and won’t step out of his comfort zone unless he has to. The reality is Banks isn’t going to experiment with his sound or seek new producers to give him something fresh, resulting in COTI 2 sounding a bit monotone and an updated version of COTI 1. The album is made for a specific sector of rap fans who like to be immersed in this gray, concrete jungle, even on the sunniest of days. Still, this monochromatic, grimey palette begs for Banks to add a jolt of variety and depth to his beat selection.
Beyond that, COTI 2 is Banks confident of his status as a one of one who invented a style that is only replicated by others. “The comeback’s been amazin’/ Here’s to my gettin’ money engagement/ Wrote my motherfuckin’ signature in pavement/I’m not to play with,” he raps on “Socialize,” and this couldn’t be truer.
There’s plenty of reflections and wisdom from a rapper who’s experienced both sides of his G-Unit fame. Now, a decade-plus removed from his last proper album H.F.M. 2 (The Hunger for More 2) — if you don’t count last year’s COTI 1 — fans can just appreciate that Banks is rapping again and doing it at a high level.
With a two year gap since his last project in 2019 ‘MONTANA ‘ french Montana has returned to drop his most personal solo album ‘They got amnesia. With his fourth solo effort French Montana formed a good balance of personal resilience with heavy hitting collaborations. I would definitely call this album impressive and his most open project to date. I’ve always had my gripes with the artist and his ability to show versatility with his rhyming ability and I can truly say that French Montana has shown his ability to be more expressive and have introspection in his records. They got amnesia is definitely an album that shows openness and is very autobiographical! The album opens with a scene at the hospital and the beep of the life support machine gives the beginning of this project a strong and very highlighted start. I also like the fact that French went in solo on the beginning of the album to show us that he can assert himself with minimal assistance and then have that ability to mix in the features ( Rick Ross, pop smoke, lil durk, Kodak black, saweetie, Doja cat, fabulous, ty dolls sign, big lotto etc) at the right time within the album. The production was mainly done by HITMACKA which has been one of the up and coming producers in the game and with what I call a BIG BRONX ENERGY sound he brings to this album he has really established himself as a top tier producer in the game with timeless samples of throwback classics! FWMGAB is definitely a very good single to start things with along with ‘ I don’t really care’ as the second single and the recent single panicking featuring fivio foreign. The album has some unforgettable highs with the track mopstick fr Kodak black while one of the feature kings ty dolls sign help lace the track called striptease featuring also featuring big Latto to put together a dope club song. Touch the sky was the stand out song featuring Rick Ross and John legend. My personal favorite was the track featuring fabulous didnt get far has a soulful sound to it and is very introspective which is the kind of records I want to hear more of French. I thought the track handstand was underwhelming and a bit of reach with the recycling of cash money’s project chick throwback. The track Losing weight was a good way to end that album off with more openness and reflection. They got amnesia definitely was able to exceed my expectations and maintain a good ability to maintain catchy songs and strait forward rap with some mid level hooks. French Montana definitely open some eyes in the game with dropping a solid album.
Caught Nick Samps at the Conway concert in September '21. Pretty cool vibes given the congestion at Beachland Ballroom. I was curious would he come with a Griselda type style when I seen he dropped a new EP laced by Lavish Picasso. Lets see how the 6-track EP panned out.
Samps shows off some dope story telling skills on "Cain Train", possibly the best track of the EP. From doing drugs to moving drugs he showed out on the track. Rode the beat damn good on the up-beat "Taxing The Game" track. His overall cadence reminds me of Bas. "Chalk Lines" was cool. He has some memoriable bars in that one.
The intro was a little weak to me intially. It didn't set the pace of the project though I get the versatility shown in spitting the poem. "Clarity" ended the project well enough. Sounded as if it was a freestyle. "High Heels" was cool. Reminded me of a Dirk type of song. Trap track for the ladies. Lavish making the the track sound cinematic helped.
Lavish Picasso did his thing on every beat. Whole project sound like a Nicholas Craven production. At quick glance, this looks to be Picasso's second effort. Well done. A series of tapes may be dope coming from this duo.
The alchemist has proven time after time that his consistency is what makes him one of the top producers in the game. He again joined forces with the New Orleans native and veteran rapper curren$y. They’ve come together to create they third project together called CONTINUANCE. Seems to me they both artist always had a great understanding of each other’s skills which in my opinion makes they’re collars top 3 when they work together.
So the album starts off with half moon Mornings is much more like a intro and flows well into the next song Reese’s cup. These songs have great detail and it seems to me spitta has a double meaning behind track two cause it referenced the chocolate and one of his favorites which is race cars. No yeast is a great collabo song with Detroit rapper boldy James that has a verse of the year candidate on it and I love the end where it seems to give u a behind the scenes take on the song. The tracks obsession and signature moves has sonic type sounds and very good punchlines and creativity. In this era of rap.
Artist tend to feature too much on projects but I like the how spitta got the features right and was precise on the selections which corvette rally stripes features havoc and wiz Khalifa which is one of the standouts song on the album and shows intricate details when they rhyming. One of the hottest rappers in the game baby face ray is feature on Louis baggage which is a straight to the point record which I enjoyed cause concise is my favorite and speaking of concise I think think this an very well packed together album that’s straight to the point. Jodeci tape track is an highlight record that’s short and to the point and you have another up and coming new artist Larry June on endurance runnners which is a match made in heaven for all the laid back cool and straight to the point listeners and this might be my favorite song on the album and the last track kool and the gang is actually my favorite because it shows introspection and storytelling that gives us an great outro the end this great work of art uncle Al and spitta cooked up!
Say what u want about the so called repetitive flow but Curren$y’s raps weed, women, the trappings of fame but it’s the manner in which they are presented that affords ‘Continuance’ its depth. The guy found his sound and formula and it’s work perfectly for him. Keep doing what you do
The 27 year old Chicago rapper has been stuck in the middle of drill era and the og conscience era from the likes of common and Kanye west and also Lupe fiasco. Saba brings that feeling back with his own twist of bro soul rap with his forthcoming album FEW GOOD THINGS. Saba continues to deliver self aware records about his journey through the west side part of Chicago suburb in Austin talking about the observations of times he’s been suffering in his city. The vulnerability and emotions in his music takes you on his emotional roller coaster with this project. The title of this project is very fitting for the track list but he does add some optimism as well! The album starts off with a very moving and melodic intro with a highly impressive verse talking about his upbringing in Chicago with the highs and lows of starting to make money.
This joint steers you right into the next track one way or every n with a budget which shows great cohesion with uplifting flows that talks about his success in the industry and it is very well deserved. Survivors guilt is featured with g herbo that’s a storytelling track sharing his experience making it out over a bass heavy instrumental that creates a live sound. The interlude track I feel is one his standout tracks talking about things he took for granted in the industry. The vocals and his verse makes this track a stand one for sure. The track come my way features hip hop legend Krazie bone and they flows go together perfectly but sonically it was a lil off from what I expected but a really good song and feature that definitely gave me that old Midwest sound . The 6lack featured song STILL is a great record. 6lack delivers on this chorus and Saba verse fits in very well with one of the strongest beats on the album and speaking of beats the track simpler time is the biggest standout record to me. Saba and mereba verses are picture perfect for this instrumental. If I had a dollar is the strongest song on this album to me. The concept of the song being about taking failures to be successful is what makes this record strong and powerful. It’s definitely my favorite record on the album. Stop that’ is the albums single followed by make believe is a dark and emotional record with a phenomenal verse from Saba and one of the best verses on the album. The outro of this songs stands out because of the passion the feature artist foushee delivers. 2012 is a very introspective record which Saba shows his storytelling ability and gives us a lyrical visual of life before he became successful. The title track. Few good things definitely didn’t disappoint at all. This track features Philly rap legend black thought that delivered an absolute classic verse that continues to show why he is one of the best mcs of all time. Saba closes the song out with a poetic outro which caps off what I in this present moment would call this ALBUM of the year! I just got hip to Saba in 2018 with his second album Take care and I can say he is definitely here to stay and this album is an complete body of work musically and sonically! And that makes this album timeless!