Why Your Favorite Rappers Will Never Collaborate Together

by Andrew Katsiris

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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: Drake – “If You’re Reading This it’s too Late”

by Carla Gaviola
Drake's "If You're Reading This It's Too Late"

Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”

Drake, or as my friends and I affectionately call him: “Aubrey Jake”, is arguably one of the biggest and most influential MCs in the hip hop world right now—big enough that pulling a surprise drop of his latest “album” (he did post a Twitter picture: “Do you like my mixtape?) was enough to keep the internet buzzing for days and propel it to the number one position on the Billboard 200.
With his signature dark ambient production, meme-worthy (honestly? I am already shaking my head at myself for writing that, but it’s the only way to put it) lines such as “I–WAS–RUNNING–THROUGH–THE–SIX–WITH MY WOES!” from Know Yourself, offset with lyrics full of both self-awareness and take-downs of his record label and hip hop scene rivals, the 17-track mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is Drake at his peak braggadocio.
I listened to the release a few hours after it came out and once the initial hype of “New Drake!” died down, the experience felt somewhat stale as a whole. The album is definitely full of bangers from the reaffirmation of Drake’s status in “Energy” to the Madonna tribute appropriately titled “Madonna” (bet you didn’t see that coming), but the change of pace and flow that Drake does best isn’t best showcased in this mixtape: in a few songs, perhaps, such as the hazy collaboration with PARTYNEXTDOOR or the eerie cathedral ambiance of Star67. This isn’t a fault though, since it’s not actually a full-fledged album and is composed of mainly throwaway tracks—which is only testament to Drake’s talent in itself.
All in all, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is a decent enough release to tide us over before Drake drops his next album, and if the quality of this mixtape is in any way indicative of Drake’s next effort, let’s just say that it’s a prelude to something much, much bigger.
Standout tracks: Energy, Know Yourself, Star67, Now & Forever, Jungle
Find out more about Drake here!
And make sure you listen to Carla on WIUN Mondays at 1:00 PM CST!

ALBUM REVIEW: Big Sean–Dark Sky Paradise

by Andrew Katsiris

Big_Sean_-_Dark_Sky_Paradise_(Official_Album_Cover)

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!

Iceage – “Plowing Into the Field of Love” Album Review

by Carla Gaviola

Iceage – “Plowing Into the Field of Love”

The music of the Danish punk band Iceage is typically lumped more into that classic punk sound evocative of bands such as Refused, frantic and fierce. However, their latest effort, Plowing Into the Field of Love (even the title itself is a radical departure!) works to shatter all of those previous notions about the band and serve as a landmark for the young band’s continuous evolution.
The opening track, On My Fingers, provides an excellent “amuse-bouche”, if you may, of what is about to come for the next 50 minutes: set on a backdrop of pianos and crashing cymbals that provide a sense of grandeur, vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt does his best Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds impression for a track that stretches up to 5 minutes—definitely another stark contrast from their previous releases comprised of fast-paced aggression, with their track lengths ranging from about a minute to two.
This aforementioned Bad Seeds influence is something which I felt permeated throughout the entire album, giving it a foreboding aura. The album’s tone is of dichotomies: comic yet dark, lush yet bleak. The track “Let It Vanish” with its galloping drums and guitars that you could almost picture in a Spaghetti Western standoff, and the lyrical content which has expanded with Iceage’s sonic palette, with subjects ranging from self-loathing to a story about a father and a son, to “The Lord’s Favorite” featuring Dionysian ecstasy and strippers immersed in metaphors. In a way, Plowing Into the Field of Love may polarize previous listeners of the band who fell in love with Iceage’s sense of urgency which seemed to bludgeon.
Their latest effort concentrates more on dynamics and control, building up and falling with tracks almost bordering on cinematic with their rich instrumentation featuring pianos, violas, even a horn section. However, I believe that this is just a mark of Iceage growing up and like an adolescent emerging from their “angsty” phase, it’s an exciting, although somewhat confusing, thing to behold.
Standout tracks: The Lord’s Favorite, Glassy Eyed Dormant and Veiled, Abundant Living, Against the Moon
Find out more about Iceage right here!
And listen to Carla Thursdays at 12:30 PM CST only 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!

Paper Lights – “Caverns” Album Review!

by Julia Barrera

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Paper Lights — “Caverns”

When I originally came across Paper Lights album Caverns, I immediately assumed it would be the type of sound I would hear in the background of a café, or while doing homework, or a place like a mall, as a kind of filler. The sound I expected was easy listening, with perhaps little complexity. I soon realized upon listening to the album, admittedly while doing homework, that I was dead wrong.

Peppered with gradual builds, a variety of instruments, relevant lyrics, and an expansive sound, Caverns quickly distracted me from my work. The band, in some effortless way, catapults the listener into the vast expansions that the album title would suggest. The album cover is this vast terrain, with almost surreal rays of light shining down, and if this portrait could have a theme song, Paper Lights has captured this sound with skill. Delicate tones that generate a sense of inspiration, to soulful crescendos, and talented musicians, Paper Lights takes the listener from the expansiveness of the universe to trials within themselves. As it were, this is their aim.

Melanie Annabelle, the female vocalist, states in an interview with Michael Dawain from Taken by Sound, “We’d just write about things that were inspiring us, honest questions we were wrestling with, and all of a sudden…” Then all of the sudden they had this whole epic concept album. The band consists of 6 members, which likely attributes to the rangy sound and intriguing lyrics, with themes rooted in philosophy that bleed through. Seemingly enthusiastic about life, they present the listener with large cinematic sound, dreamy and etheric, while substantial enough to touch on darker themes. Some might say music itself, as an art, may have the power to expose certain truths and break down barriers within to speak to the soul. If so, Paper Lights is its embodiment. Battling apathy and isolation with raw, divine tunes that draw out the strengths in all scenes and individuals. So initially, when I thought this would be great background tunes, I was right, but my attitude about the whole thing stuck the band in a supporting role when it wanted to take the lead. My bad!

Once I gave it a chance, however, they, like any good artist, lured me in and showed me what I did not even know I wanted. Paper Lights considers themselves a family, and it shows. The genuine and inspiring sound that follows is what has gained them an enthusiast in me. Somehow, that is the best kind of journey. It is unexpected and reminds us not to hold too fast to our preconceived notions; to step outside our comfort zone and push beyond the walls that perhaps keep us safe, while simultaneously sheltering us from new experiences. I believe Paper Lights would respect the journey, and be pleased to see exactly the kind of transformation they hope for take place as the result of their wonderful sound

You can find out more about Paper Lights at their website!

And listen to Julia Tuesdays at 1:00 PM CST at WIUN!

ALBUM REVIEW: Perfume Genius “Too Bright”

by Ari Starks

From Matador Records

From Matador Records

Perfume Genius’s “Too Bright” is an album that is full of ambiguity and wonder.  Released September 2014, it’s absolutely perfect timing for the season.  This album fits autumn due to it being sparse, empty, and transitioning into something new.  “Too Bright” probably is not for a listener who is not willing to understand Perfume Genius’s message throughout his eleven tracks.  Being that it was my first time listening to Perfume Genius, this album didn’t leave the impression that I was hoping for.  I personally did not feel like this album did not live up to the hype that it was given.

Listening to this album for the first time was difficult for me.  As a music lover, I tried to understand Perfume Genius’s artistry and aesthetic towards this album. I found appreciation for the scarcity at some points throughout “Too Bright”.  Those few times of vastness pushed me to try to comprehend the various choices of words in his songs as well has how he sang them.  Unfortunately, the only way that I could try to attempt to understand the story for each song was to look up the lyrics.  Even though Perfume Genius has a very neat and unique voice, the strong vernacular made it a little challenging.  Also, the album is only thirty-three minutes long which made me feel like it was too short.  It is a possibility that Perfume Genius did this in order to make a statement to the listeners—a way to draw us in and take a closer look and achieve an understanding of the story that Perfume Genius gave through his vocals.

Overall, the album “Too Bright” is an album that takes multiple listens to achieve a connection to Perfume Genius. Like I said earlier, this album is not for a person who wants meaningless lyrics to dance to. Even though it was difficult to understand the point of  “Too Bright”, I wouldn’t mind listening to it again in the future.

Perfume Genius’s website is right here!

Ari’s on the air Wednesdays at 3PM and her twitter is @sorryitrhymes!

WIUN Radio is always on!!!!

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!