The Round-Table: September 2015’s Best Albums

Welcome to the round-table. In this latest redleafgoldteeth series, we will take a look at different general opinion questions regarding music and urban culture, and see if we can reach some sort of consensus. The beauty of a site like this, is that we have so many opposing views, representing many different segments of the culture. Through round-table, you will get a little insight into how each of our writers view the state of the game.

Pull up a seat;

 The RLGT Round-Table: Ranking The Best Albums Of September 2015

With all the hype around Rodeo, and eventually #WATTBA, the squad takes an in-depth look at the 5 best albums of the month, to see if they hype truly ended up where it belonged.

Big Boi & Phantogram – BIG GRAMS (Husson):

We all know the story, of how the unlikely combination of rap icon Big Boi and electronic-rock duo Phantogram formulated such a cohesive sound that captured the attention of audiences across all genres. Big Boi heard the Phantogram track, “Mouthful of Diamonds” during the recording sessions for his second solo effort Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, and it was all history from there. The collaborations “CPU,” “Lines” and “Objectum Sexuality” all appeared on the second LP and formed the improbably unified sound we’ve all grown to know and love. The newly released “BIG GRAMS” EP sticks to this original formula that was used by the two artists back in 2012, and the collaborative EP brings forth the musical strengths of both respective artists. Consistent flow and respectable raps from Outkast’s Big Boi and the dreamlike vocals and instrumental work from Phantogram serve together as the musical prototype of the genre we’ve come to know (or that I’ve just made up) as electro hip-pop.

The seven tracks on “BIG GRAMS” all complement one another in a consecutive manner. The instrumentation throughout the EP stays consistent in its dream-pop cinematic ways, while the spaced out vocals provided by Sarah Barthel trade in and out with Big Boi’s fleeting raps.

The highlight of the album makes its appearance halfway through the EP with the fantastical orchestra that is “Fell in the Sun.” Daddy Fat Saxxx brings forth his most memorable lyrical moments on this track while Barthel’s vocals shine all over the uplifting chorus. The only bone I have to pick with the track is that it wasn’t released pre summer vacation, as it has Summer 2015 anthem written all over it.

Overall the album works. Its cohesive, its southern rapid raps, its dream-pop vocals, its genre bending, its Big Boi and its Phantogram.

Stay tuned for more big news regarding the “BIG GRAMS”, because according to Rolling Stone, the group is planning “animated/graphic videos, surprise live performances, interactive games and special fan events,” to follow up the release of the EP.

Travis Scott – Rodeo (Raymond):

Ingredients: Kanye West, Kid Cudi, autotune, and a loyal group of ragers.

Procedure: Take equal amounts of each ingredient and pour them onto a stage.

Result: Travis $cott.

Whether you agree with me or not, I believe its hard to succumb to the fact that La Flame is evidently a by-product of some of the most popular/successful elements that live in our culture today. Honestly though, I don’t blame him. The formula that he’s been utilizing for several years now has successfully brought him from living from couch to couch to now “dating-but-not-dating” Rihanna. In his latest album, Rodeo, Travis continues to show the world what he can create with some help and inspiration from some of the best in the game right now. This album doesn’t earn a lot of points in the lyrics department, but Rodeo’s all-around approach with both rapping and singing make it a decently fun album. Personally I don’t think it’s as cohesive of a project I’d like it to be, I think that there are definitely some stand out tracks that give the album appreciable replay value. If you’re a Travis $cott virgin and haven’t given Rodeo a shot, then I would recommend first listening to “Antidote”, “Maria, I’m Drunk” (With JBiebz), and “Pray 4 Love”. And for those who were worried that Rodeo wouldn’t give Ragers much to rage about, then guess again… (see video below)

Mac Miller – GO:OD AM (Hospey):

Up until about last week, when Big Grams seemingly seamlessly released completely under the radar, I would have easily voted GO:OD AM as the most slept on, yet solid project in recent memory. With that being said, the latest Mac Miller memoir still proceeded without much excess hype, solidifying Mac’s position as the world’s most famous B-List rapper (or perhaps the world’s least famous A-List rapper?). Though this positioning in the game was brought on by his own futile actions and un-consistency, I believe Mr. McCormick is exactly where he needs to be, to strive again.

The mixtape-era hero turned in-betweener (when you become too old to rap about weed, but too confused to make the transition to a new style), finally finds his stride, fully on GO:OD AM. From the more than fitting intro, “Doors”, to the standouts like “100 Grandkids” with its “Bad Boys For Life” reference, and “Weekend” which is held down by the soulful voice of Miguel, all the way to meaningful closers like “Ascension”, the project is one of those cohesive bodies of work that all of us music bloggers ramble on about.

(Above: My personal favourite track from the album, “Weekend”)

It’s not everyday that a white-rapper without many notable’s since 2011, who just singed a 1 million dollar deal, collabs with a range of artists from the likes of Lil B, Chief Keef, Miguel, and Ab-Soul, on a project that was in the works for over 2 years, releases it on only a month’s whim, and in-turn creates something underwhelming. Staying true to this full-proof formula, Mac Miller manages to create a more than adequate project, without getting lost in the often confusing pursuit of “art”, which he has been known to do in recent years. Overall, GO:OD AM is the perfect easy listening album, with the perfect amount of depth for heavy listeners, and enough GOOD SONGS (I swear, people forget that a good project isn’t good, if there aren’t any good songs…) to keep the project from falling flat. Consider this the return of the Mac.

Stream GO:OD AM, here.

What a Time to be Alive (Gurtoozy):

This album is like diamonds, but diamonds that weren’t cut really nicely. They got some smudges on the side, a little stain from being smuggled over the border in someone’s rectum. Some of them are chipped after falling from your chain while you were trying to reach over and grab your drinks from the McDonalds Drive through window (don’t make your chains with your little sisters bedazzled creation kit and shit). But at the end of the day, they’re still diamonds, and what do diamonds do…. They dance (Diamonds Dancing best song on the album period).

what a time

Future and Drake both have had amazing careers up to this point, and this album does nothing to tarnish them. It actually really doesn’t do anything for them in terms of propelling their careers either. The album was made in 6 god damn days, I don’t know what they were expecting. The beats, as expected from Metro Boomin, are insane. Every single song produced by the dude has the low frequencies covered, the snares are always snappin, the melodies are on point, this guy is trap Mozart.

Digital Dash is one of my favorite intro songs of this year. I honestly do not know what Future is saying, and I don’t want to rap genius it because it’ll probably ruin the song for me, but I have a feeling he’s talking about being in the trap (it’s just a feeling though, I could be wrong, Future is the most diverse lyricist on the planet after all). Drake also says some stuff on this song, it’s just stuff though. “Harlem Shaking through the pressure” – Drake (2015).

“Big Rings” is a trap song. It’s a trap song with bass. Drake talks about some girls. He has a really big team. The rings for his team better not come with any strings otherwise Drake will be in a state of discontent. That wouldn’t be good for you, because he could buy your house from you and you would accept. Future says something about Pluto and Jupiter in this song.

“Diamonds Dancing”: now this song is something else. This is on some true Drake and Future Hybrid shit. This is the song I expect to hear whenever someone mentions these two names to me. It’s a mix of the two separate artistic styles, Drakes softness, and Futures Trapiness. Again the lyrical content isn’t anything special, but them both talking on the track sounds pretty good.

At the end of the day this album is probably good to listen for a month. The bangers are there, I would definitely dance to some of the songs in the club (Plastic Bags is good for my part time job as an exotic dancer). The album isn’t anything special though, consider it background music for the careers of these two rap moguls.

On an ending note: Jumpman Jumpman Jumpman Jumpman Jumpman Jumpman Jumpman Jumpman

Fetty Wap – Self Titled (Thomas): 

If I were to recommend a drinking game built on the consumption of liquor per mention of “Remy Boys” or “1738” on Fetty Wap’s self-titled debut, those who accept the challenge would be the most popular guy at the party said album would be played at and/or recipients of a stomach pump. They are not mutually exclusive, thank God. This is important to note for two reasons:

1) Those choice terms are repeated A LOT. Fetty and Monty (The Ghostface to his Raekwon) don’t necessarily have Shakespearean vocabularies, and over the 20 cuts and almost 80 minutes the deluxe version drags out over, you’re going to hear quite a bit of repetition. But…

fetty_wap_fetty_wap_560383f7280fc_498_498

2) …it’s still going to played at the party because this is a great fucking album.

All things considered, Fetty probably shouldn’t be dominating the charts in a way nobody has since The Beatles. Rap classicists mock his simple vernacular, avant-garde admirers smirk at his production choices, and his quick come-up via an earth-shattering debut in “Trap Queen” is almost reason enough for anyone to scoff. The last rap stars to jumpstart their careers via Vine ready singles have either gotten locked up or gone bankrupt. He’s got one eye and dreads that aren’t even his. He joined Taylor Swift on stage. He’s a pastiche of what makes internet rappers so self-satirical.

And he’s working all of it in his favor.

He stopped wearing a prosthetic eye because, as he softly told Peter Rosenberg “I got tired of hiding from people, you know what I’m saying, putting on an image for people” His dreads were cut from a woman he knows and respects because “You don’t just put anybody’s hair in your head.” Every performance of has been an exercise in the pure joy of making music. The same joy Wayne radiated on his 2005-2008 run. The joy a less cynical and more Polo-clad Kanye West seeped when he rapped about gold diggers and Benz’ and backpacks. Fetty seems well aware the odds he’s overcome thanks to the unlimited reach of the internet. And he’s eating that shit up.

There’s jubilation in his voice that no amount of auto-tune, vocal lessons or commas in a paycheck can forge. You can hear him smiling as he asks his woman to “jugg” with him. He’s practically got his arm around the Remy Boys as he belts out the hook on “RGF Island”. Hell, even “Again”, the “saddest” song on the album, he’s beaming from diamond-studded ear to ear. He’s the rare case of an influence that’s coalesced the talent and evolved into a singular sound. There’s traces of 808’s Kanye, pre NWTS Drake, and a few other of rap’s top balladeers in the subject matter hidden in his croak, but trust they are hidden very deep down. His voice is the star. The immediately arresting warble and contagious joviality somehow wrap his knack for earworms around the beats at every chance.

I’m like yeah, she’s fine/ Wonder when she’ll be mine/She walk past I press rewind/ To see that ass one more time

If anyone else even uttered something like that on record, people would say, “Damn, I didn’t know Chingy still made music.” But for Fetty, it’s simply another victory lap for anyone who’s going to listen. Even if you’re not, he’s content celebrating by himself. Hearing a young talent so happy to flourish within his own means, to have created idiosyncrasies so grounded in his soul that they can’t help but blossom into melodies is something that should be celebrated. Join the festivities.

This album is far too long. The rapping is mediocre, sometimes at its best. Attempts to switch lanes mostly fall short. “Rewind” is five-minutes you won’t be able to get back. And goddamn if it’s not the most fun album released this year. This is the debut most rappers wish they could pull together. Willie Maxwell has star power. Whether he’ll be a superstar remains to be seen. But the anthems on Fetty Wap, and they most certainly are anthems, will stick around. “Hey, whattsup, hello” isn’t just an icebreaker anymore; it’s a maxim.

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There you have. One month, Five big album releases. Five unique writers, five unique reviews. It’s been a huge month for hip-hop, and us as listeners, should be proud to be partaking in it. Join all of us here at RLGT and keep these albums spinnin’ come October.

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