Today marks the twentieth anniversary of one of the most influential rap albums of all time, "Illmatic". Our song of the week is the widely praised "N.Y. State of Mind", which many consider the best rap song of all time. An interesting fact is that Nas recorded this legendary song in one take. The beat was produced by the legendary DJ Premier.
If you haven't already, listen to this terrific track. Here are the lyrics:
True Music Reviews does not claim ownership over the "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" album cover. Full credits go to George Condo and Kanye West.
Even though the album was released over three years ago, I have not listened to "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" prior to this review. However, I have heard a lot of great things about it, so I decided to check it out for myself.
I will have to admit that I was very impressed with the quality of the album in which many consider to be one of the best rap albums of all time. There was not a single bad track on the album, even though some tracks were clearly better than others. The instrumentals were all great, and most of the features were excellent. Let's begin the review with the first track, "Dark Fantasy".
Track #1: "Dark Fantasy"
"Dark Fantasy" was a terrific first track from Minaj's haunting intro, to the glorious sample hook, to Kanye's verses himself. The beat was excellent, and Kanye succeeded in painting a vivid picture of his life through his lyrics. This song put me in the right mood, and made me look forward to the rest of the album.
Track #2: "GORGEOUS" ft. Kid Cudi and raekwon
First of all, "Gorgeous" surpassed the previous track lyrically. In addition, the features on the song were excellent. However, that is also a downside to the song, as Raekwon and Cudi outshined Kanye with their respective hooks and verses. In addition, I didn't really dig the beat as much as I did with "Dark Fantasy". In addition, Kanye's flow was a little more boring than it was in "Dark Fantasy". It is still a great song though.
Track #3: "Power"
"Power" is definitely the best track out of the ones I have listened to so far. Once again, Kanye improves lyrically, but he also manages to put a superb beat with the song. The outro was as close to perfection as it will get. All in all, "Power" was a very successful song.
Track #4: "All of The Lights (Interlude)"
There really isn't much to say about this beautiful interlude, except for the fact that the violin and piano blended very well together. Even though this interlude had no vocals in it, it was still a showcase of Kanye's skill, but as a producer as opposed to a rapper. It also prepared me for the epic song to come after it.
Track #5: "All of The Lights" ft. Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie
I absolutely loved the intro to this track; the trumpet horns made it sound very cool and dramatic. Once again, Kanye's lyrics were top-notch, but were not as good as the other songs mentioned above. In addition, the outro was a little bit too strange for me. However, I thought it was really cool how Kanye featured 15 different artists on the track, including Fergie, Elton John, and Charlie Wilson. Rihanna's hook was very catchy too.
Track #6: "Monster" ft. Jay Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver
Almost every time I see this song mentioned, I also hear Nicki Minaj's verse mentioned with it. I was skeptical, and I never would've thought that she could have outshined two of the best rap artists ever. However, I was proven wrong after listening to the entire song a couple of times.
As I stated above, I will actually have to agree with the majority of the people, because I personally did think Nicki had the best verse out of the three. However, all three artists (namely Kanye West, Jay Z, and Nicki Minaj) provided us with excellent verses that had their fair share of superb lyrics. In addition, Rick Ross's intro and Bon Iver's intro and outro were catchy. Finally, the beat on the song was extremely dope. It is definitely a standout track on the album.
Track #7: "So APPALLED" ft. Jay Z, Pusha T, Prynce Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz, RZA
I really enjoyed all four verses in this song, as they all had unique rhyming schemes, excellent delivery, and decent lyrics. Even though I enjoy RZA's music quite a lot, I did not like his hook very much, because it didn't really sound right after listening to Cyhi the Prynce's verse. In addition, I didn't really get into the Swizz Beatz bridge. Despite this, the production was decent and the song was good.
Track #8: "Devil In A New Dress" ft. Rick Ross
Even though this was one of the most lyrical songs on the album, "Devil In A New Dress"'s beat started to annoy me after a while, and I think West should have shortened the length of the song. I did enjoy Ross's verse quite a lot, and I felt like he did better than West himself, as his flow got pretty boring after a while. Even though it is a great song, it is still one of the low ends of the album.
Track #9: "RUnaway" ft. Pusha T
As you can see below, "Runaway" literally broke my scale, due to the fact that it is one of my favorite songs of all time. The lyrics are very sincere; most people will not admit that they are "assholes" and that they "always find something wrong". I felt like I could really relate to Kanye, as I feel like a constant critic also.
On the other hand, the instrumental was perfect, due to its pure simplicity. From the initial piano playing at the beginning of the song to the violins at the end of the song, the beat was outstanding. It could have not been any better.
If I had to change one thing about this song, I would probably shorten the length of the outro. Even though I enjoyed it, I did feel like it dragged on for quite a while, and the song would be better if it was a little shorter.
Track #10: "Hell of A Life"
In "Hell of A Life", Kanye demonstrated his storytelling skills, and provided us a terrific beat. The lyrics were great, but not as good as some of the other songs. Even though it was Kanye's story, I felt like this song could have used a feature to bring the song to the next level. In addition, the hook could have been better. Despite all of this, "Hell of A Life" was a successful track.
Track #11: "Blame Game" ft. John Legend
First of all, John Legend's hook was excellent. In addition, I found myself jamming to the distinct piano beat of "Blame Game". One of the highlights of this track was the number of vocal effects that Kanye used, especially in the second verse. The pan effect made it sound like Kanye was having a conversation. However, Kanye's flow was a bit offbeat at times, and his lyrics were not as great as some of the other songs on the album.
Track #12: "Lost In The World" ft. Bon Iver
In my opinion, "Lost In The World" is the only song on the entire album that compares to "Runaway". I love how "Lost In The World" starts with one voice, and subsequently crescendos into numerous voice singing at the same time. In addition, I thought the beat was really cool. All in all, I just loved the overall vibe of the song, and it is definitely a standout track on the album.
Track #13: "Who Will Survive In America"
"Who Will Survive In America" was a great album outro, as it describes the racism that still exists in America. Even though the entire song was very underwhelming, I still enjoyed it quite a lot. There honestly is not that much to say about it.
All in all, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is the best album I have ever listened to. Here are my Top 5 tracks from the album.
#5: "Blame Game"
From the excellent hook, to the beautiful beat, to the haunting vocal effects used by West throughout the song, "Blame Game" stood out in my mind as one of the best tracks on the album.
I really enjoyed this track's theme of the downsides of having fame and fortune. In addition, the outro of this song was perfect, and Kanye's verses were very dope.
All of the rappers featured in "Monster" had superb verses, even though Nicki Minaj was the highlight of the song. Bon Iver's intro and outro fit perfectly within the theme of the song.
#2: "Lost In The World"
As one of the most dramatic songs on the album, "Lost In The World" was a huge success. The beat is arguably one of the best ones that Kanye has ever had a hand in the production. Even though it was not the most lyrical song on the album, I still loved Kanye's verse.
You had to see this coming.
"Runaway" is definitely one of the best songs Kanye West has ever made, and it is one of my favorite songs of all time, due to the fact that I could relate to it so much. If Kanye sang like this in more recent tracks such as "Blood on The Leaves", I would probably enjoy them a lot more. If you have not already, I highly suggest that you listen to the song.
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"Just The Same" is a superb collaboration between two high school seniors: Aaron Deux and Isaiah G. Its lyrics depict an aspiring rapper that knows deep down, he is different from all of his haters. The beat was produced by Deux himself. Here are some of the standout lyrics:
My interest to indent is a infant cause I just want all of this shit
I'm proactive activist, decoding all hieroglyphs
You silicone rapping your passion is backward I'm actively active
If you have not already, check out the song. I can almost guarantee you that you will enjoy it, if you like listening to rap music.
True Music Reviews does not claim ownership over the "1912-2014" album cover. Full credits go to XX/\/\E and the real creators of the album cover which are unknown to us.
It is time to give some aspiring rappers the spotlight. XX/\/\E may not be the best aspiring rapper I have ever heard, but he does have a lot of potential. XX/\/\E improved drastically from the beginning of the album to the end, and that is always a good sign. He may go big one day, because he will probably keep getting better. Let's begin with the first track.
Track #1: Service Speech
The vocal effect used in this song reminds me of one of those voice-changing toys that I used to use all of the time when I was a kid. It was very risky, but I think it payed off.
This was more like a speech with an instrument playing in the background than a song. There was a very awkward pause in the middle of the song that was probably not intentional. Despite this, XX did explain us his motives for the album, and creating a sermon for himself was kind of an interesting idea. I wouldn't call it a song though.
Track #2: Grumpy
The extremely boring beat, and XX's off flow killed the song for me. It is obvious that he has talent, but there may have been an error with mixing and mastering. The high point of "Grumpy" was its lyrics, and they are some of the best ones I have heard from an aspiring rapper. Another suggestion I would give to XX is to make the song louder; the beat was too quiet.
Track #3: UFO
At this point, XX has already proven that he has a unique style, and he enjoys playing around with different concepts. The first thirty seconds of the song features an excellent sample and beat. However, the beat does not pick up once XX comes on, and it does get boring after a while.
XX's flow was a little more on-beat for this song, but it still can improve. The lyrics of this song were also good, but the issue of volume appears once more. Another issue that pops up for the first time on the album is song length. XX recorded a verse of him singing that was not really necessary.
Track #4: La La La
"La La La" started off with XX singing which was nice, but it could have been better. Once again, XX did rap more on-beat this time, and the beat was pretty good on this track. I felt I could connect to it more than the other songs.
Surprisingly, the low point of this song was its lyrics, which have been great for the past few tracks. The lyrics for "La La La" just seemed to generic and sloppy for my taste.
Track #5: First Love
Once again, XX surprises me with an interlude. In addition, once again, XX uses his voice-changing toy voice. It was a nice break from listening to the previous songs. It also helped to introduce me to the next songs on the album.
Track #6: First Day.Don't Worry About Me
Once again, XX improves flow-wise. However, the lyrics were once again very generic. XX/\/\E produced this himself, and I commend him for that. One suggestion I would have for him is to not make the transition between the beat phases so abrupt. You need to lure the listener from one phase to another.
Track #7: Woah Woah Woah
XX actually outshined his feature in "Woah Woah Woah", and once again had good lyrics. However, his flow was more offbeat than the last song, and the beat wasn't anything particularly exciting. It still appears as if XX is improving though.
Track #8: Plane
I am not certain if the message of this was supposed to be deep or not. "Plane" was definitely a unique song. The flow was definitely more on-beat this time, but the true weakness of this song was the production. It was good until around 0:10, and then it got really choppy. The tempo change in the middle of the song was quite awkward too.
Track #9: Yeah Yeah Yeah
"Yeah Yeah Yeah" was definitely one of the best tracks on the album production-wise. The lyrics were also pretty deep too, as XX explains in the song. His flow has improved even more, and this is definitely the best track out of the first ten tracks. I am not quite sure how the words "Yeah Yeah Yeah" fit into the song though. He could have used some autotune with the hook too, but he probably doesn't have access to it.
Track #10: Lesson Of Time
The second best song of the first ten, "Lesson of Time" still has good lyrics, but not as good as the previous track. XX's flow reached its height of the first ten songs in "Lesson of Time", and the beat was still pretty dope too. I jam to this. The outro was spectacular.
Track #11: To Be Honest II
Immediately after an excellent outro, the listener is brought into a new and improved version of a classic XX/\/\E song through a great intro. XX's flow was actually pretty dope, and has improved drastically from the first ten tracks of the album. The mixtape is slowly getting better and better.
Track #12: Ethereal
"Ethereal" showcased excellent production, but unfortunately, XX's offbeat flow ruined this song's chances of being in the top spot. The lyrics were not the deepest, but I heard a couple cool plays on words in there.
Track #13: The Story
Once again, we are given another interlude with the cool voice effect. This time, XX explains how he was misunderstood as a young child, and how he has grown from that.
Track #14: Why Am I here Where is My Soul
To be honest, this track bored me. I guess the beats were not that exciting, and XX's flow was off. On the other hand, XX managed to incorporate the voice effect that he has been using during the interludes into the song, and turned a terrible song into a not-so-bad song.
Track #15: 1912
Not the best track on the album, but this final lyric left me wondering:
I know for a fact that I'm the best rapper dead
I am not entirely sure what that is supposed to mean. It is probably a very deep metaphor, that I cannot comprehend. It is a 10/10 final lyric.
Here are my Top 3 songs on the mixtape:
In conclusion, "1912-2014" showed a lot of potential, but still had a lot of error. Despite this, XX has proven that he is getting better, and that he is an excellent lyricist. He could use some better producers, and he still needs to touch up on his flow. Despite this, I firmly believe that he will become a lot more famous one day, because I believe he has the ability to do so.
Before you close this review, I would like to reward you. I was actually orginally planned to be on the album as a producer, but arguments between the two rappers on the song below caused XX/\/\E to remove the song from the mixtape. Listen to "100 Years Ago", the former album intro, below.
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