The Weeknd–“Beauty Behind the Madness” Review

by Andrew Katsiris


Canada has been no stranger to sharing the musical talents of its natives with the world.  From infamous pop stars like Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber to the hip-hop great, Drake, one of the greatest talents the cold North has blessed us with is no other than Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. the Weeknd.  The R&B singer did little to project himself as a pop phenomenon early in his career, accumulating a following online while keeping his identity anonymous.  He first performed live in 2011, and since then has increasingly gained popularity in the United States.  His first album, originally three free mixtapes, was released in 2012 under the appropriate title, Trilogy, which was followed in 2013 by the less popular album Kiss Land.  It seemed the Weeknd was stuck with his devoted fan base and features on bigger artists’ tracks, until he released the out of nowhere pop sensation, “Earned It.”  This was the first track off of his third studio album, Beauty Behind the Madness, but at the time held its own on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.  Abel followed up with the smash-hit, “I Can’t Feel My Face,” and the singer’s rise to mainstream popularity had begun.

Beauty Behind The Madness is not short of the explicit sexual actions and drug use references that the Weeknd has been known for, but that doesn’t keep his pop hits off the radio.  His most popular track, “I Can’t Feel My Face,” is in heavy rotation on pop music stations, despite Abel’s confession that the song is about the numbing and euphoric effects he feels while using cocaine, rather than a girl.  The track was #1 in the country not too long ago, according to Billboard.  While the song has been noted to sound like a Michael Jackson single, the most prominent homage to the King of Pop can be found further into the album.  One of my personal favorite songs from the album, “In the Night,” had me taken aback when I first listened to it.  I turned to my friend in the passenger seat of my car, who had requested I hand him the aux cord so that he could play said track, shocked that the same artist behind “Wicked Games” was the same one belting out MJ-style vocals that could have passed as the late singer.  Needless to say I was impressed.

All in all I’d consider Beauty Behind The Madness to be one of the most unique sounding projects of the year, and although it has already achieved massive mainstream success, there is no need to dismiss it as a cheesy pop album (looking at you, hipster Imagine Dragons fans).  The album is available on iTunes, Apple Music, and Spotify for streaming.  Some tracks I thought were most notable were “The Hills,” “In the Night,” and “Prisoner (feat. Lana Del Rey).”

You can listen to Andrew Mondays at 2:30 only on WIUN!


Why Your Favorite Rappers Will Never Collaborate Together

by Andrew Katsiris


Let’s stop acting like there will ever be another time when a group of three or more rappers, on separate labels, with their own unique skillset, will collaborate on a few tracks, ultimately releasing an album together.  Timbaland asked/trolled Twitter with the idea of a Drake/Kendrick/JCole collaboration album (queue the unrealistically hopeful, immature rap fans…).  With those three artists being some of the most influential in the hip-hop genre as of this moment, it’s a fantasy for fans of the three to someday witness history like that.

Why will this never happen?  To keep a long story short, because it would be trash.  Allow me to explain…

When two artists collaborate, be it on a single track or a full album, the two of them have to vibe together in a way that would show on wax, giving the track a unique sound that could only come from the joint effort of two artists.  If that vibe isn’t there, the track will not achieve what it set out to do.  How many times have you heard about a track by one rapper, featuring a completely different rapper?  It happens all the time, but every so often the track is expectedly awful.  Drake, JCole, and Kendrick would not vibe together in the slightest bit.  Let me break it down by artist: what they bring to the table, and how they’d mess it all up.

Drake, with his last project, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” and the events that followed, has made it clear he is not playing nice with the other boys on the playground; he isn’t taking competition lightly.  While “IYRTITL” did not lack the soft, singing Drake persona we listened to on “Nothing Was the Same,” there was the kind of Drake that wasn’t taking just punches and rolling with them, but returning the blow.  Who can forget the not-so-subtle Tyga diss, “you need to act your age and not your girl’s age?”  Twitter hasn’t forgotten it.  Tyga probably hasn’t, but I’m not about to listen to his (expectedly trash) mixtape trying to find a response track or lyric.   The fact is that although Drake considers Cole to be a brother of his, the vibe wouldn’t be there in the studio.  His OVO team would have a folder of beats lined up, and Cole wouldn’t be able to find an instrumental suiting his conscious lyrics, whereas Drake would do what he does best: essentially rapping about nothing but still sounding dope.

But why wouldn’t Kendrick and JCole vibe together?  Let’s not forget the infamous “Control” verse Kendrick wrote- the one that called out a multitude of rappers, including Drake and Cole.  Is Kendrick willing to set aside the competitive spirit he possesses, the same spirit influenced by west coast hip-hop legends that separates him from Drake’s competitive attitude?  Part of me says no, that JCole’s apparent lack of that spirit would not vibe properly.  Despite the fact that on “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick let everyone know that he was tired of people sitting in his throne, he also brought up the plight of the black community in America, a topic Cole touches on constantly.   So maybe the two of them will find some common ground with such an important topic.  But where does that leave Aubrey?

It’s no secret that Kendrick and Drake are “frenemies.”  Do they respect each other?  Drake probably does, but Kendrick is no stranger to calling out the Canadian; from his verse on “Control,” to the line about ghost writers from “King Kunta,” Kendrick has gotten his fan base used to the sneak dissing Drake.  After Meek Mill tried (and failed) to call out Drake for having a ghostwriter, the Toronto native does not stand where he used to in comparison to Kendrick and Cole, as far as lyrics are concerned.  But Drake has never been the one to rap about social issues, aside from problems with his ex, so what does that leave Drake to rap about?  How he’s the best to ever do it?  How his girl used to call him on his cell phone?  Does the former actor have any common ground with Kendrick and Cole, especially when they are all on the SAME track?

I say no, and given my reasoning behind it you should know I’m not just some kid who thinks it would be “lit” for the three rappers on one track.  After I first heard “Watch the Throne,” or even old Eminem/Dr. Dre tracks, I knew it was special but I couldn’t figure out why.  As it turns out, the reason these collaborations are so special is because two hip-hop artists having chemistry like Kanye and Jay-Z, or Eminem and Dre, is rare to find.  The fact is that Drake, Kendrick, and Cole simply don’t have that chemistry between the three of them.  So you can stop holding your breath, because the “legendary” collaboration is never happening.

ALBUM REVIEW: Big Sean–Dark Sky Paradise

by Andrew Katsiris


I have never listened to a Big Sean album from beginning to end, nor have I ever purchased an album of his.  To be quite honest, I have only listened to Big Sean when he is featured on a track by Kanye West, Drake, etc.  That is, until “Dark Sky Paradise” was available for preorder on iTunes.  And I think it was worth preordering.

Granted, that’s not what I thought in the weeks leading up to the album’s release.  Initially, the only track available for download was the single by the name of “I Don’t F*** With You,” featuring E-40.  Right off the bat, I wasn’t happy with it, and for one reason: I cannot stand E-40.  When G-Eazy released his debut album, “These Things Happen,” one of my favorite songs (“Far Alone”) had an E-40 feature; in a nutshell, he ruined the song for me.  He threw down a verse on the first single off of “Dark Sky Paradise,” and ruined it as well.  Aside from the nonsense beat (a DJ Mustard signature), the song played its part well, as a post-breakup song for Sean’s male fan base.

His second single, “Blessings” featuring Drake, gave a hint that the album would address more mature topics than telling off one’s ex.  Drake drops a verse, as well as the hook on this song, which I thought was…decent. Not bad, but I could’ve been done better.  The track was met with positive reviews, and a second version was released by DJ Skee, with an additional Kanye West verse.  Although only 30 seconds, the Yeezy feature was praised by fans everywhere (I was not one of them).  The second version never found its way to the album, which in my eyes is not a total loss.  But after hearing the features in the first two singles, I was beginning to feel skeptical about the upcoming album.  However, I was worried for nothing.

While the act of releasing a single or two from your unreleased album to build hype for said project is not a method pioneered by Big Sean, it was a method he executed perfectly.  “I Don’t F*** With You” and “Blessings” are not the best tracks on the album, not by a long shot.  While they touched base with the childish, break-up topic and the cocky, “we’re better than you” topic, the album starts off on the right foot.  “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers)” provides an introspective look into the life of Sean, with an instrumental that pulls the entire track together.  And it’s only the beginning.

Track 3 gives us the second collaboration between Big Sean and Kanye West, “All Your Fault.”  Hard drums, soul-style samples, Kanye singing the bridge, and an uplifting hook is what makes up the recipe for one of my favorite tracks on this album.  It works beautifully, and the third verse even has Sean and Kanye swapping lines, reminiscent of the Kanye West/Jay Z collaborative album, “Watch The Throne.”  I couldn’t help but want to listen to it again before moving on to the next track.

All in all, the album is a quality piece of work.   With features by Jhene Aiko, Ariana Grande, Lil Wayne, Drake, Kanye, and more, there is no shortage of talent.  Am I glad I pre-ordered “Dark Sky Paradise” on iTunes?  Absolutely.  Do I recommend it?  No question about it.

My favorite tracks (and in my mind, most noteworthy) were “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers),” “All Your Fault,” and “One Man Can Change the World.”

Find out more about Big Sean’s new album at his website!

And be sure you listen to Andrew Tuesdays at 1:00 PM on WIUN!

Logic – “Under Pressure” Album Review

by Andrew Katsiris

Logic – “Under Pressure”

When you hear the words “under pressure,” the first thing that may pop into your head is the catchy bass riffs, the rhythmic clap/snap combination, and Freddie Mercury’s vocals from the class Queen and David Bowie record.  However, October 2014 brought with it a new hip-hop album that’s better than pumpkin-spiced lattes.  Twenty-four year old Maryland rapper, Logic, is the “young Sinatra” behind said album.

Released under Def Jam Records, his debut album did not disappoint the large fan base Logic had acquired in the underground rap scene.  And he is not new to the pressure, release, and reception of feature-length tracks; with four mixtapes under his belt, Logic had the confidence to drop a twelve-track album, including a fifteen-track deluxe edition.  While the norm for many artists in modern hip-hop would be to have many other artists featured on their songs, Under Pressure lacked any kind of feature, save for the deluxe edition (Childish Gambino featured on “Driving Miss Daisy,” Big Sean featured on “Alright”).  Without any features, he had the freedom to show off his skills without any comparisons.  In his tenth album track, “Nikki,” he seemingly raps about a complicated, love/hate relationship with a girl, but reveals at the end that Nikki is short for nicotine, and he had been rapping about a cigarette the entire time.  Logic, or as he is credited as a writer by his full birth name, Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, does his share of producing the beats he raps on, specifically, “Nikki,” “Under Pressure,” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Like I said, Logic is not new to the hip-hop world; he released his first mixtape, Young, Broke, and Infamous, for digital download in December of 2010.  Following up, he released another installation of his Young Sinatra mixtape series every year, the most recent being in May of 2013.  With nearly a year and a half of touring with Kid Cudi and not releasing any new music, it is impressive that he was able to sell 71k copies in his first week.  Ironically, rapper J Cole told Logic the day before the release of Under Pressure to “not worry about first-week sales”; in retrospect, he really didn’t need to worry at all.  Check out Logic’s album on iTunes, available now.

Tracks on Under Pressure I found most notable were “Soul Food,” “Buried Alive,” “Nikki,” and “Alright” feat. Big Sean

Find out more about Logic!

And make sure you catch Andrew Mondays at 1:00 PM only on WIUN!

ALBUM REVIEW: Thom Yorke “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes”

by Andrew Katsiris



Chances are, if you’ve been scrolling through Tumblr sometime in the past month, you may have seen Thom Yorke dancing.  While his age is no secret, thanks to his children, he does not shy away from anyone noticing.  No cover-up would be used to disguise his appearance, and he seems to like it that way.  With his second solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, he shows us that while he may seem to age, his voice certainly has not.

With the Internet making the availability of free music more common, Yorke seems to have beaten the system by selling his album through BitTorrent.  Many music-lovers have used websites like BitTorrent to illegally “steal” entire albums, and by relation they are stealing from the artists themselves.  Despite how rich your favorite rapper may say he is, chances are he did not make all of his money from people illegally downloading his mixtape.  Yorke however, does; at a mere $6, you too can download his album through unconventional ways and still support the man himself.

Yorke is not the first to release an album in an unconventional way.  Hip-hop legend Jay Z released his 2013 album, Magna Carta, Holy Grail a month ahead of his intended release date, by providing one million digital copies of his album to Samsung users.  He had justification to say on “Somewhere in America,” “million sold before the album dropped…”  Very recently, rock band U2 attempted to do the same, but for iPhone users, and for free.  However, they were quick to receive negative comments from anyone who does not appreciate a free album.  Although it does not help that it took up the memory space I needed to update to iOS 8, so their/our negativity may have some reasonable support.

For his first solo album since 2006’s The Eraser, Yorke seems very modest.  In my personal opinion, the album has potential but does not capture my attention as a great album.  In a way, it is seems to be more of a teaser; the way movies have modest trailers to tease the future release of a blockbuster hit, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes feels like a teaser for something more to come (perhaps more from Radiohead..?)  All in all, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is definitely an album worth listening to; the tracks “Interference” and “Brain in a Bottle” stood out to me the most.  Enjoy listening, and tune in to WIUN every weekday for more music!

Thom Yorke doesn’t have a website of his own, but he has a Twitter!

So does Andrew, @fromWIUN!

Okay!  You can go back to listening to WIUN now!