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INTERVIEW:

YUNG BOOKE

Yung Booke is the sole artist who was interviewed for the 16th issue of the magazine. The Hustle Gang artist, has earnestly been making a name for himself in the city as a growing artist and a genuine person. With the help of 999 Perspective and Booke’s amazing team, we got a chance to sit down and discuss current trends, Nicki Minaj,  identity, unos, and fatherhood, all the while proving that Yung Booke truly is the realest in the city.

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ALBUM REVIEWS

FIRST QUARTER PICKS
EXTENDED REVIEWS

Syd - Fin

by Mason Murphy, ATL

Syd shows her evolution as an artist on her freshmen album “Fin” after a stint of playing a supporting role to the hit breakout band, The Internet, and racking up some pretty interesting features around the industry. “Fin” is a simultaneous look into Syd’s love life and life as a celebrity, as evident on tracks like “Know” and “All About Me” (which are both standout tracks). While Fin does a good job of showcasing the duality of Syd’s life, I feel like the means in which it is showcased is one of the problems with the album; “Smile More” and “No Complaints” are perfect examples.  For example, “Smile More” has some incredible production, but the vocals need work, as the pre-chorus sounds irritatingly awful. I can’t stand the production on “No Complaints;” it is disjointed and makes it troublesome to listen to. Yet, apart from those blemishes, Fin is still beautifully produced, rich in content, and a step forward for Syd as a solo artist.

Big Sean - I Decided

by Joshua Robinson, ATL

Big Sean had a lot of pressure over his latest album. After a career changing album with Dark Sky Paradise, the “Moves” rapper had big shoes to fill. Touted as a concept album about living life to your best potential, I Decided is arguably the most inspiring album of 2015, even though it’s recently been surpassed in pure quality by More Life and Rather You Than Me. However, Sean’s ability to inspire and motivate is what has kept him as one of my favorite rappers of mine since his mixtape days. I Decided, although flawed as a concept album, offers Sean Don’s most mature and direct music to date. The album itself is essentially 12 tracks when you exclude the old man intro and the unforgivably short tease of Twenty88.

Surprisingly, Big Sean doesn’t open I Decided with the usual song that exemplifies his rapid rhyming abilities, scrapping his usual movements for the perfect album opener with “Light.” With one of Jeremih’s most meaningful features on the songs hook, “Light” finds Sean declaring that they can’t f*** with the light, a testament that holds true throughout the album. In fact, the first half of the album finds Sean developing that theme through tales of L’s, self-determination, and success. “Bounce Back” and “Moves” are the obvious songs lumped in Sean’s post-breakdown of “Light,” but “No Favors” is where it all comes together. 4 albums, 1 collaborative album, and 4 mixtapes in, his lyrical display on “No Favors” shows that Sean Don is the hungriest that he’s ever been. The song also features the infamous 2017 Eminem verse, but I argue that the wtf-ness of Em’s verse is what overshadows Seans, not the actual bars. Moving on from the intense bar-off, Sean offers more of his usual sound with “Jump Out The Window,” a song that displays that even though his interests haven’t waned much, his ability to thoughtfully portray those stories has grown immensely.

The second half of the album is where the concept of the album is prevalent, with “Voices In My Head/Stick To The Plan” being the prime example. “Sunday Morning Jetpack” and “Sacrifices” expound on the “sticking to the plan” as Big Sean discusses what truly matters in his life and how those things inevitably get pushed to the side due to both his ambitions and distractions. “Bigger Than Me,” the extravagant album closer, is the culmination of those ideas, as he relays what he’s learned to all of his listeners, therefore making “I decided” not just Sean’s new album title, but sincere wisdom for all of us moving forward.

Sampha - Process

by Alexa Byrd, ATL

I just want to start by saying, I really love Sampha's voice. The fact that it's so unique makes it even more loveable.  His sound is so original and I appreciate that. The album consists of ten laid back tracks. Although the album isn’t very light-hearted, Process featured some great tracks. My favorite is "Blood On Me" which presents an up-tempo beat along with strong lyrics. I think the best word to describe the album is ­innovative. It seems like all the music came from a very personal perspective with tracks like "(No one Knows Me) Like the Piano" and "What Shouldn't I be?" Throughout the album, Sampha displayed great vocal ability. I found that pretty refreshing. Process is so soulful in an alternative way. It’s not like any other piece of work that I've listened to. This album was unconventionally beautiful. The pain behind some of the lyrics made me so intrigued in the music that I replayed it a couple of times. Overall, Process was great and I hope that he receives great success from the project.

Drake - More Life

by Kyra Williams, NY

Views, released just under a year ago, was our preparation for More Life; the next logical step of a concept album with dancehall interweaved between energetically aggressive and sentimental hip-hop that’s Drake as we know him. With a heavy presence of patois throughout the project, the concept of the album is a reflection and release of bad energy from recent years of his career alongside a presence of an uplifting spirit: bragging about his success, having fake people in his corner, losing people in his life, beefing, making sacrifices for success, and now claiming positivity as a better life than what he’s engaged in. The project is just attention grabbing from the start, making the reception of this message automatic and reiterated with talking interludes and sonic emotional changes as transitions between tracks. He portrays tension, discouragement, and disappointment lyrically and a feeling of hope sonically. Every song has a heavy bass that competes with the center presence of his voice that you can’t help but move to, simple and steady samples or synth patterns, with a combination of percussion, sweep sound effects, EQ, panning, reverb, and delay. He succeeds by providing an illusion of space and comradery up against his secluded and separate mentality that evolves over the course of the project to be more hopeful, an observation it takes quite a few listens to truly grasp.

A good example of this track structure is “Madiba Riddim” that’s a very dance-able track but talks about his pureness that God sees but the devil’s hindering presence in his life that makes him unable to discern who’s a friend and who isn’t. As a result, he needs space to rebuild himself in order to love again. Deep right. And the most notable effect on the track is EQ automation on the adjusted clave handclaps that lay right beside the centered bass and Drake’s voice, an in your face juxtaposition between happiness and struggle.

Furthermore, I believe “Free Smoke” was the perfect intro track to this project. It set the tone of More Life’s satisfaction immediately with the aggressive lyrical delivery with an unbothered feel, heavy bass, forward high hats, and a sample loop that resemble “Back to Back,” the starting place for this whole concept which is the beef with Meek Mill in 2015. It was his outlet to talk that talk. But then towards the end of the project, “Glow” featuring Kanye West marks a transition into a more inspirational approach lyrically, which was sonically reiterated with a swing groove on the track’s synth pattern and the Earth, Wind, & Fire “Devotion” live sample at it’s end. And in closing of the album, “Do Not Disturb” is the direct reassurance that Drake was in fact claiming his place on the throne, reflecting, and looking forward to improving and taking time for himself. In his words “Maybe gettin’ back to my regular life’ll humble me/ I’ll be back in 2018 to give you a summary/ More Life.” So, it’s safe to say we’ll see even more of this reflective Drake in just a year and I’m here for this authenticity and direct growth within and outside of the music.

Trey Songz - Tremaine

by Kyra Williams, NY

This is Trey Songz’ most vulnerable album yet and the most evolutionary and experimental of his career since Ready. He stays true to his R&B roots and impeccable track record as a vocalist, displaying captivating range, runs, backgrounds, and harmonies. While doing so he continues to dabble into hip-hop in flow, tone, and ad libs. And in resemblance of the sexual pride we are all familiar with when it comes to Trey Songz, specifically in epic intros like “Cake” and “Panty Droppa,” “The Prelude” is added to that list. But while carrying on the traditions of his career, there’s a fresher but smaller pop element present in “What Are We Here For” and “1x1” and a new orchestral ballad side to him is revealed in “Break From Love.” I also noticed a more cinematic feel to this album not just in lyrical content but in production choices of sound effects and samples that go along with the content of each song.

Promoted by the fake reality tv show concept, “Tremaine The Playboy,” which accompanied his video and single releases before the album dropped, his sex image heightens but his manhood makes a more prominent appearance than ever before. He becomes more upfront with his personal struggles as a sex symbol and willingly engaging with the women that come with that image while being at odds with it and yearning for a lasting relationship. This project displays a saturation of sexual content with sporadic moments of heartbreak where he asks for forgiveness from the girl he hurt but loves, which resembles this unbalanced gravitational pull between the appealing lifestyle of Trey Songz and the one Tremaine ultimately needs. With a concept of this magnitude, I thought he wouldn’t be able to uphold this sex image throughout various songs on the album but he did and delivered a different vibe for each of them. And with each song about the girl and the love that he missed out on, he peels back another layer to Tremaine for us to receive. This album marks another recent successful authentic work with a therapeutic mindset. Trey pulled from all of his past releases to create this montage of who he is and who he aspires to be, creating a cohesive project that shows his growth musically and personally. My only criticism is that I would have liked a more seamless storytelling of tracks slipping into one another to make the tug of war of his life even more direct.

Khalid - American Teen

by Jarrett Lampley, LA

Releasing his follow up to his hit song “Location,” Khalid definitely presented us with a solid album in dropping American Teen just a couple weeks ago. The ambitious 15 track album, with no features, is an eclectic mix of records exploring 19-year-old Khalid’s experience as an American youth (as the title of the album tells us), young love, and desires and motivations as he leaves and reflects on his teenage years. It was interesting for me listening to it the first time through because it was such a change from his single Location; which I would describe as a soulful bop. Straying away from tracks that incorporated smooth beats and lyrics that one could more closely associate with R&B music, Khalid definitely took the time to explore a variety of musical influences. Many of his tracks incorporate 70’s synth sounds, simple snare combinations and overall minimalist choices in production. I found this to be clever because it highlighted Khalid’s soulful voice in a way that could’ve easily been lost in over-produced records; but at the same time it ran the risk of creating an album that at times feels repetitive, a criticism I’ve heard a lot in Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage as well. Despite this, the album flowed well. It was interesting to me that Khalid chose to blend the tracks together in terms of subject matter and tempo as opposed to creating sections that many artist choose to do today; not only did this keep me engaged as a listener, but it also disguised the fact that some of the tracks sounded similar or utilized similar lyrics. It kept me interested; and it wasn’t until I went back and listened to them separately that I found the similarities. In contrast to other R&B albums, I would put American Teen on the level as projects recently released by Ravyn Lenae, Sampha, Jorja Smith and Kehlani; drawing on past influences while bringing a new feel to R&B. Overall, I’m impressed by Khalid’s first studio project and am most definitely looking forward to see where he takes the hype of this album; and especially how he brings these tracks to life on stage.

J.I.D. - The Never Story

by Tim Perry, ATL

To preface this review, let me first say that J.I.D is perhaps the best new rapper I’ve heard since Isaiah Rashad, in terms of raw rapping talent.

When you first listen to J.I.D, you might think his flow is and cadence is reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar, and I’d be inclined to agree. J.I.D is an Atlanta “zone 6 vet” rapper, as he raps in song 5 off the album, clearly with something to prove. As an affiliate of Atlanta record imprint Spillage Village with close hip-hop colleges and collaborators Atlanta duo EarthGang, he recently dropped his debut Album entitled “The Never Story”. Simply put, this shit is dope.

As an aside, it is true that J.I.D is a recent Dreamville signee –but before you judge me of being bias in his favor for rocking with Dreamville, find solace in the fact that I started listening to him soon after EarthGang dropped “Strays with Rabies”. Simple math will prove that I am not in fact a bandwagoner.

The Never Story features verses from 6lack, Earthgang, Mereba and production from J. Cole, Childish Major, and Hollywood JB. This album is very Atlanta and very hip-hop, and by both those metrics, it is amazing. When he raps, every rhyme is deliberate, every verse of his is written with the purpose of seasoned rap veteran. When he sings, and he does sing, it gives you the urge to close your eyes and just listen [both under, and over the influence of marijuana]. Every artist that contributed their verse fit so perfectly in the context of the album. The Never Story is just so polished, perfectly mixed and mastered, it’s like J.I.D was working on a gangsta ass jigsaw puzzle. Three months in to this year and I am confident that most albums dropped in 2017 will not even touch The Never Story.

Dreamville Records got them a good one, they’re roster is up there with T.D.E now. Do not sleep on J.I.D, as a matter of fact, get to know him now before he blows up, see him live, be part of his entourage, because he’s about to fuck the game up. I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t have anything thoughtful to say about his album, but with music like this, it is best understood by experiencing it. And while you’re at it, look up his freestyles.

Thundercat - Drunk

by Mason Murphy, ATL

The third album in Thundercat’s catalog is by far the best project that we’ve seen from him thus far. With cool instrumentation and signature singing from the cool cat himself, features like Kendrick Lamar, Michael McDonald, Wiz Khalifa and Pharrell Williams, and production from himself, Flylo, Soundwave and Mono/poly, best believe it’s a wild ride. While it presents relatively good features and production, the subject matter is just as good. On “Bus In These Streets,” he promotes a message of putting the phone down and enjoying life rather than chasing after a fallacy on social media. On “Friend Zone,” Thundercat talks about a girl who he’d like to be with but can’t because she’s not that into him, and he can’t figure it out. My final fav on the album would have to be “Tokyo,” a very simplistic song and interesting look into the personality of Thundercat. Overall, I give this album a 5; it is perfect from a production stand point and subject matter while making good use of features and album length.

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EYES ON ATLANTA:

VONNE

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