Reviewing the latest in hip-hop and R&B albums

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | November 2, 2017


THE COME UP SHOW/CC BY 2.0 Artist Ty Dolla $ign’s latest album follows his 2016 mixtape Campaign.

These past few weeks have been relatively big ones for hip-hop and R&B. Some major names and underground fixtures have blessed the market with new albums and singles.

Now, we at The News-Letter know it can be difficult to sift through all this content; luckily we’re here to do part of it for you with these three reviews. All three albums were released Oct. 27, 2017.

Beach House 3 is another Ty Dolla $ign album. If you’ve heard a Dolla $ign album, you should already be able to describe most of the songs off this latest release. The project, while as greatly produced and talent-filled as any other Ty Dolla project, isn’t particularly innovative.

The album starts off very promising; the best song on the project is the third track, “Love U Better.” DJ Mustard — who had fallen into the trap of creating dozens of beats that all sound the same — crafts one of the biggest, most dynamic beats I’ve heard in awhile.

For example, he chops the Peabo Bryson sample (notoriously used on “100” by The Game) but then flips it in a completely new direction. The beat sounds like summer and all of the features contribute perfectly; even Autotune Lil Wayne drops a great verse.

Other than “Love U Better,” there is a general boringness to this project. I feel like Ty has made every song on it already, and while I absolutely loved each track the first time I heard it, the same bounce is getting old.

The first song, “Famous,” is backed by an acoustic guitar. While objectively good, the track is not much different than “Solid” off Free TC.

Again, I am in no way saying that this project is bad, it is expertly produced and Ty and all his features sound great. But it’s held back by boring songwriting. I have given props to Ty for being so consistent, but while he seemingly can’t make a bad song, he also seems to have lost the desire to create a great song.

He is an artist that hasn’t grown or changed in years. Every new project sounds like a continuation of the last. Part of me respects the consistency, but another part wants some excitement and novelty.

I hope that on future projects, Ty chooses some more novel, vibrant beats. I could see that open up his songwriting to new places.

Majid Jordan came out very hot. The Toronto duo burst onto the scene featured on one of Drake’s biggest tracks: “Hold on, We’re Going Home,” a song that became global almost as soon as it came out. It is atmospheric, slow and tender.

After their initial burst of hype, the duo released a self-titled album, was serviceable but did not turn too many heads.

In The Space Between, I hoped that the group would learn from past missteps and try to make music that is more dynamic, more human and more enthralling. Unfortunately, they do almost nothing to change their sound. This album sounds like a direct continuation of the sessions from the last project.

The formula for a Majid Jordan track is simple and after a couple listens completely loses its appeal. Jordan Ullman creates a beat — with a heavy kick and lots of low end (fitting the so-called “OVO sound”) — that is sprinkled with some atmospheric sounds and lots of sine wave synths.

Then Majid Al Maskati hops onto the track, dragging out long notes with his high, nasally voice, which is lathered with compression and reverb and then pushed back into the mix.

His voice is good, but his singing is treated almost as another layer of instrumentation to the beat: just melded into the general soundscape. Along with this monotonous sound design, the songwriting is also stale.

In writing this review, I went back and listened to their very first EP, A Place Like This. I was shocked by how creative and unique that project was. The tracks, though still having the general format of a Majid Jordan song, are all distinct and interesting.

“Forever” has a pounding dancey kick and choral backing, “Her” is a beautiful ballad and “A Place Like This” has a booming sub-bass with a beautiful melody — it is a joy to listen to.

The major difference between Majid Jordan’s earlier output and the stuff they make now is that they made sparser, skimmer music before, that used the silence and rhythm to emphasize atmosphere and sadness.

The old style also gave Majid space to go on his falsetto trills and croons. However, with each project, while the production gets more and more thick, the music gets more and more boring, and the atmosphere is distilled into just flat OVO sound fodder. I would love it if they distanced themselves from the same synthy, slow and boring music and dedicated themselves to creating cool, novel grooves.

Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. got some serious, significant hype after his phenomenal verse on “1 Train,” Joey Badass’ banging posse track. But as rappers are wont to do, he let this huge wave of interest die down.

For a while, K.R.I.T. was missing from the scene almost completely. Now K.R.I.T. has released 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, his third project, a double album and, in my opinion, his most successful project yet.

This is a Southern project. The music is smooth, loud, unapologetic and proud. There are songs here in which K.R.I.T. showcases his power as an MC. Over loud banging beats that need a commanding presence to be tamed, K.R.I.T. whips them into shape with his a sweet, strong Southern drawl. This is a flow that I have missed in modern hip hop.

This isn’t an album of empty flexes or flat meaningless verses. This is a project that truly introduces you to K.R.I.T., from his greatest braggadocio to his deepest insecurities.

The project goes from classic Southern hits, like “Subenstein (My Sub IV)” — a banging track about the sub-bass coming alive — to delicate, touching pieces like “Everlasting.”

There are definitely duds on this project. The most egregious is “1999,” a song that could have easily been on a weak mixtape from 2007. The hook — “Back that ass up like it’s 1999” — is neither clever nor catchy. Also, having a great value Ty Dolla $ign sing it doesn’t help the cause.

This is also a rare project in which the skits are hilarious and easily re-listenable. The art of the skit is one that has been lost in modern hip hop. The “Classic Interlude” on this project made me burst out laughing the first time I heard it, and on subsequent re-listens, I never skipped it.

“I really wanna sing but I better rap,” K.R.I.T. says on “Mixed Messages,” a song he ironically sings on. I agree with his statement, and I wish he kept the singing to a minimum.

His voice is deep, gritty and powerful. When he raps, his drawl is unique and strong. When he sings, his voice falters and sounds far more amateurish and unsure.

The biggest problem with this project is its length. A double album is a difficult thing to pull off, and. while K.R.I.T. does a great job, he still creates a whole lot of filler.

There are some tracks on here that should have just been cut. If he had condensed this double album into one polished record, it would have been significantly more listenable.

Nonetheless, this is a great album — one that should make the South proud.

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