Despite being labeled a “mixtape,” Drake’s fourth album, finally out physically, is yet another slice of excellence from the Toronto rapper. Opener “Legend” again details Drake’s meteoric rise along the lines of Nothing Was the Same’s “Started From the Bottom” (“If I die, I’m a legend,” he declares after detailing his successes) over a spare, ghostly beat. But it’s never all about braggadocio with Drake, as paranoid lyrics like “it’s so hard for me to let new people in” seep in. That continues onto single “Energy,” with its refrain “got a lotta enemies” and lines like “I got girls in real life tryin’ to fuck up my day/Fuck goin’ online, that ain’t part of my day.” Drake gets a lot of grief for complaining, but he’s also his own worst enemy and critic, calling himself out for “thinking about money and women 24/7” on “Know Myself” in a way that helps make him more compelling. Those other Drake complaints—that he’s not hard enough, that he’s not the best pure rapper—are routinely silenced by the pure quality of tracks like “Madonna,” a perfect example of how Drake’s unique cadences and lyrical candidness more than make for any perceived weaknesses. If You’re Reading This doesn’t have a crossover track with appeal approaching megahit “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” but Drake doesn’t really need that at this point to make a strong album, and the production across the album is stellar nonetheless, freeing Drake and his collaborators to focus in on what makes him sound great rather than individual tracks. No-nonsense beats by Boi-1da jibe well with PartyNextDoor’s codeine-fueled productions, among others who worked on the album. If You’re Reading This’ 17 tracks run long without the bigger production of a similarly long album like Take Care, but there aren’t really any weak songs, either. Latter-half tracks like his back-and-forth with Lil Wayne (who’s in fine form here) on “Used To,” the reflective raps on “Now & Forever” over Eric Dingus’ “Trap House 3 Remix” (no, that’s not Grimes) and suddenly animated closer “6PM in New York” all count as highlights. However much If You’re Reading This might be a smaller release between blockbusters, it feels as essential as anything Drake has done.
Among the brand new releases to arrive at Amoeba this past week is Words Paint Pictures by Rapper Big Pooh care of Mello Music Group who continue their flawless streak of releasing hip-hop that matters amidst so much pablum out there. This nine-track release features a bunch of collaborators including Ras Kass, Erik Blakk Soul Keith, Marv One, Apollo Brown (who did production for the lead single "Augmentation") and super producer L'Orange (who does a remix of "Augmentation").
Fellow fans of L'Orange, who I am a major fan of and last interviewed here on the Amoeblog in May of 2014 when he dropped his amazing Orchid Days, will rejoice to know that he is soon to unleash another album. Unlike Orchid Days when he paired up with various emcees, he will collaborate with just one mic wrecker this time, the Chicago wordsmith Jeremiah Jae (who many may know from the Dirty Collections 7" single series he has released via Warp Records) with whom L'Orange recorded the upcoming The Night Took Us In Like Family that will be arriving in Amoeba on April 21st.
Hot on the heels of his collaborative album with Stik Figa (The City Under The City) talented prolific producer L'Orange now returns just six months later with more of his refreshingly unique sound: the highly recommended The Orchid Days that was released last month and that, like City, comes via the high caliber indie label Mello Music Group. "Two and a half years ago I got out a piece of paper and wrote down every single thing I wanted to do in the next year and at the very bottom of it I wrote Mello Music Group," the artist told me of finding his ideal label home after self-releasing some free albums digitally. "This is where I have seen myself for a long time and it is definitely an honor to be counted among the roster." His brand new Mello Music release The Orchid Days features carefully selected guest vocalists, (including Blu, Homeboy Sandman, and Billy Woods) on just 7 of its 19 tracks allowing the Nashville based producer to fully stretch and flex his trademark, hypnotically dreamy production style - while interweaving just the right amount of vocal guests to perfectly compliment his (and their) styles - all the while subtly moving the album's storyline along. The Orchid Days storyline is the story of love - finding love, falling in love, and then losing it and missing it - a story told via random soundbites expertly assembled - to the backdrop of an old world mood crafted by building layer upon layer of dreamy jazzy grooves from digging deep into really old jazz records with flutters of dramatically engaging soundbites/samples (handpicked over time by L'Orange) from old black and white movies, along with, often static sounding, classic old radio broadcasts. These samples along with the mood created by the musical backdrop tell a story that strongly hint that there was some specific romantic figure in L'Orange's life that inspired The Orchid Days. So I asked the artist was there a specific girl in mind as he recorded the album? "Of course there's a girl. I'm a poet," he replied adding. "Since that's not a satisfying answer I'll tell you something I haven't told anyone yet- she's on the album cover." [above left]
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib "Shame (feat. BJ The Chicago Kid)" (off Pinata)
1) Freddie Gibbs, Madlib Pinata (Madlib Invazion)
2) YG My Krazy Life (Def Jam)
3) ScHoolboy Q Oxymoron (Interscope)
4) JJ Doom Bookend EP (Lex Records)
5) Rick Ross Mastermind (Maybach / Def Jam)
The new number one hip-hop album at Amoeba Hollywood this week is the recently released (March 18th) collaborative album Pinata (also available on LP/vinyl format) from the power duo of Madlib teaming up with Freddie Gibbs. Released through Madlib's Madlib Invazion label this one hour, seventeen track, hip-hop tour-de-force also features some very well-chosen guests (new school and old school) that perfectly compliment the pair including Danny Brown, Raekwon, Scarface, BJ The Chicago Kid, Casey Veggies, Sulaiman, Mac Miller, and Odd Future's Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt. Another new album featuring numerous guest collaborators is the number two chart entry this week from popular new rapper YG whose just released debut on Pu$haz Ink via Def Jam My Krazy Life features such big name guests as Drake, Young Jeezy, Kendrick Lamar, and Ty Dolla $ign along with his longtime producer DJ Mustard. Scroll down below to see the video for YG with DJ Mustard's "Left, Right" off the new album. Another new chart entry is the recent (vinyl picture disc DP) Bookend EP from JJ Doom (the duo of DOOM - aka MF Doom, and producer Jneiro Jarel) on Lex Records.