Phife Dawg: Always on Point

Rip Phife Dawg

RIP Phife

When I woke up that morning to find out that Phife had passed, I felt like a dear friend had been taken away from me. It’s been four days since the passing of Malik Taylor and I am finally comfortable enough to play Tribe. I tried to write something as fast as I could but I just found myself extremely discouraged and refused to listen to the group out of denial-something I’ve never done before.

A Tribe Called Quest has been marauding my ears since ’94. The first sounds we hear as babies are the low end of sounds from the outside world and our mother’s heartbeat. It was somewhat poetic that The Low End Theory was the first real time I fell in love with music. I hadn’t realized it in the moment but I had started a relationship that would last forever. At first it was just an attraction from afar and I hadn’t really known their name. That was the state of things until I matched face to name on the Thrasher: Skate and Destroy soundtrack (one of the best skating soundtracks of all time, sorry Tony Hawk). Soon after, I would be skating to ATCQ in the real world as I was completely taken with smooth basslines and golden era flows.

They say you really start to forget a person when you forget their voice but I know this will never happen with Phife. The uncanny notion about legends dying is that they have already been immortalized before they actually pass. Phife established himself as a legend to me with everything he did on record. A student at heart, one of my favorite aspects of Phife was his ability to teach. “You see my aura’s positive, I don’t’ promote no junk,” was so straightforward in delivery, yet a line you can always muse on. From smooth wordplay to intricate lessons about the actuality of the world, Tribe taught me everything. They taught me how to listen for basslines. They taught me how to feel music in my soul rather than just listen to it. They told me how to be smooth and be myself. My roots are embedded in the Zulu Nation’s frontmen.

“You see my aura’s positive, I don’t’ promote no junk.”

Phife was short but he taught me how to stand tall. He was always on point and will be all throughout time.

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Missed Stop: Last Train to Paris

A couple of weeks ago I was inspired by Diddy’s IG to revisit his 2010 album Last Train to Paris. Having only been six years ago, this project was way ahead of its time.

 

I first genuinely got into Diddy-Dirty money from the mixtape Love Love vs. Hate Love released in 2011, a few months removed from their debut album. The group consists of Diddy, Dawn Richards (from Danity Kane) and Kalenna Harper. Their sound resided with me and stood out amongst most of the content form that era. Songs like “Ass on the Floor,” (my jam) were often triumphant and surprisingly therapeutic. Last Train to Paris was one of the first products of the paradigm shift that was 808s & Heartbreak. They borrowed from the Yeezy archetype and mixed it with EDM grooves to push the sonic adventure forward.

This project has been deemed a concept album on multiple occasions. The idea behind that being a journey to find love lost. The title provides more indication of where that love is and the urgency to get it back. Here we find Diddy more vulnerable than he has ever been on record. That level of exposure keeps the content raw and unapologetically honest. Diddy is still very-much-so Diddy, but I have never felt more of a connection to anything else in his discography except “Last Night,” featuring Keyshia Cole (with Part 2 ironically featured on the deluxe version). All the feels are packed into a tour throughout different stages of the protagonist’s relationship, with Dawn and Kalenna giving their takes from various perspectives.

There are so many features on this album but there is no point where any of them feel invasive or interrupt the flow of the record. The variety of producers come together well without stepping on each other’s toes. They work similarly to an ensemble cast and contribute diversity to the sound. I enjoyed what each of them brought to the table, notably Chris Brown and Usher. There doesn’t seem to be too much of a dependency on these other artists because of how well Diddy-Dirty Money remains in the foreground. Diddy uses rapping as a mode much more than a skill here to deliver his side of things until Dirty money comes in and interweaves their vocals into the lining of the track.

This album had six singles, with “Coming Home” raking in the most success. Appropriately referred to as a “cult classic,” the album seems to have a polarizing effect on its audience. When I listen through today, I don’t approach it with a genre in mind. Genres in the hip-hop and R&B world were just starting to really blur their lines back then and the EDM realm door was barely cracked for collaboration. Furthermore, everything always goes back to the sound, which was extremely experimental. So depending on your music exposure you either loved it or shrugged it off as nothing special. The world is even smaller musically than it was six years ago and I believe Last Train to Paris will resonate a lot better than it would have back then.

So don’t miss that train:

Rihanna vs. Ree-Anna

According to charts and memes, “Work” is the most popular song off Rihanna’s latest album, Anti. (Though my personal favorite right now is “Woo” with production from Hit-Boy and Travis Scott.) Including a feature from Drake, this song has a lot of star power as is regular for any Rihanna record. One of the many aspects of the record that has contributed to its success is the catchiness of the hook. Though singing along has proven somewhat difficult for those not familiar with Rihanna’s native tongue. All throughout the song Rihanna uses a fair amount of the language native to her birthplace, Barbados. This language, Bajan Creole, is mostly concentrated in the hook and has been labeled as “gibberish.” The vernacular spoken is very similar to Jamaican Patois, which has a similar speech pattern. The fact that her lyrics have been referred to as gibberish has revealed something that has been going on with popular black music for a while now.

When black culture reaches the masses, there seems to be a limit on how much people can take. You can be black, but you can’t be too black. This appropriation of culture can be seen in form of clothing style, trending slang, and musical genres such as rock n roll, hip-hop and R&B. People mirror within boundaries safe enough for themselves with no true understanding of what they are mimicking. I am in no way against the collision of worlds but the method when it comes to black culture is really skewed and has been for most of our “free” history.

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Recently Beyoncé’s last few media headlines involve controversy with her last music video for “Formation” and her performance at Super Bowl 50. They both received polarizing responses from the world that has supported her thus far. SNL summed it up perfectly in their “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black” skit. When she took a stance regarding the devaluation of black lives and celebrated her blackness, the same people that hailed her as queen began to antagonize her as an enemy. She was just being too black.

This is the case on a much less political scale surrounding Rihanna’s latest single. When people look at the lyrics as nonsense, appropriation is still taking place but from a much more intricate viewpoint. What is happening here is a modest result of hundreds of years of western globalization. In this particular scenario the ideas from “Work” are not being taken but rejected. People assume that the tongue being spoken has to be English, so that is the standard they will judge by. While the U.S. doesn’t operate with an official language, English is the official language of 65 countries and territories. Out of these places, 35 have made English their only official language. The impact of English has led to influence on other languages, like Bajan, as a superstrate.

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The problem with this outlook is that the world is judging cultures by the standards of their own rather than the local standards of the cultures being observed. If you truly listen to a song only expecting to hear English you have closed yourself in a lone world as if music isn’t universal. This methodology applies to all culture and forms of diversity across the globe. (If you need to get clarification on lyrics and their meaning the best site to do so would be genius.com.)

With that being said, I love that Rihanna went all out with her West Indian customs from the track itself to the double video. (Fader did an awesome interview with Director X that dives into the themes and mindset behind the illustration.) “Work” is the perfect ratio of dancehall, electronic sounds and pop appeal that she has been working on for 8 albums. Everyone I know and have seen when exposed to it has felt it’s undeniable danceability. With the success of this record I’d hoped there would be a better response to the mesh of culture but it seems we have a long way to go.

When approaching diversity in music and life I hope you please try to remember the following:

“The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit” – Wade Davis

 

Maurice White: A Shining Star

RIP Maurice White

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When one of the greats from eras of music prior to my time have passed, I have never really been able to mourn the way I am for Maurice White. The founder and leader of Earth, Wind and Fire, he was a force for positivity in music and the world. Growing up, I listened to the funky high-spirited grooves of his band’s music all the time. I say band for relative purposes but they transcended simple linguistics because they existed as so much more. If not from radio on a Sunday afternoon drive, you could most likely hear them on any given soundtrack. Listening to them set up a lot of the foundation for the music I enjoy today based off the sheer exposure to their discography. Earth, Wind and Fire would have up to 16 artists on stage at once and entertain the world. They taught me instrumentation before I knew what instruments were. EWF touched my soul with every last decibel they produced. I am so grateful for the template this group put forward and I know the Maurice’s legacy will live on forever. My condolences to his family and loved ones.

I still remember the day my mother and I were trying to find this song. “Brazillian Rhyme (Beijo Interlude)” is my favorite Earth, Wind and Fire song and was sampled by my one of my other favorite groups of all time, A Tribe Called Quest. Peep both songs below.

 

 

Travis Scott and DJ Mustard a.k.a Pinky and The Brain

Groundhog Day has always meant two things to me, the first of which is my father’s birthday. The second is my favorite Bill Murray movie of the same name. Groundhog Day has resonated with me for some time now. Besides being one of my favorite comedies, it has taught me a lot in between the lines. A first time watcher would most likely take away the moral of appreciating every day and never taking what you have for granted. I agree with this 100% but I have watched this movie as many times as Bill went through his time-looping odyssey. These last couple times watching I’ve seen something new, I’ve noticed the themes of consistency and reinventing oneself. Both of these themes are important in the day-to-day as well as the long-term. I believe this for myself and for those pursuing formidable goals. Today’s music industry is no exception. You will have to work twice as hard to get noticed and ten times as hard once you have “made it.” There are two artists I have observed closely for quite a few years now that have put in the work necessary to bring their careers to new heights.

I’ve been listening to Travis Scott since the early days of Owl Pharaoh and his feature on the G.O.O.D Music compilation album, Cruel Summer. My friend (s/o Chimes) told me of his concerts and charisma way before La Flame kicked photographers off stage. Since those days Travis has retained his chaotic energy and channeled it into his sound. He experimented and expanded his portfolio until he found a confident stride with the Rodeo rollout. From the last days of 2015 into the New Year this man has not stopped. Once he found a comfortable place sonically, he plugged his bounce-flavored tracks into the market one step at a time. “Bake Sale,” his most recent collaboration that Wiz had been hinting to, finally released a little over a week ago. I was nervous it would never come out after G-Eazy used the beat for a track his album (which fails in comparison). “Bake Sale” borrows a little from the “Antidote” formula along with Trap Wiz to form the most upbeat stoner/cooking song one could create. Last December Scott premiered “Wonderful,” that sounds like a product of his recent tour with The Weeknd and “A-Team,” a triumphant march into 2016.

 

I’m sure everyone who was exposed to music in the last five years has heard DJ Mustard’s style, whether it was him on the production credits or not (I’m looking at you, Iggy). DJ Mustard had the consistency down until it almost got too repetitive for some ears. Since then Dijon has been on a slight hiatus, having toured and evolved his mix into something beyond what we’ve experienced so far. He took the universal sound of EDM and focused it through the lenses of a young artist from LA. A quick scroll through his Soundcloud and you’ll hear exactly what I’m talking about. Dependable collaborator Ty Dolla $ign makes good use of the new wave on “Saved” and “Wavy.” The furthest transformation of Mustard might be on Rih’s new “Anti.” The instrumental of “Needed Me” is otherworldly and innovative in its use of MIDI.

 

“Whole Lotta Lovin” is the result of the relentless efforts of DJ Mustard and Travis Scott. After months of crafting this composition Mustard made his return to the foreground. The track disregards the lines between hip-hop and EDM and synthesizes something original. (Genre-blending is getting very popular these days. See Bryson Tiller.) The record is catchy on its own but with the world premiere on Beats1 Radio, it’s had exposure to 100 countries by default, as well as a video coming out less than a week from release. Travis has honed another style with great melody, writing and quotables to match. The “Pour my lean and juice/ Braid my hair like Snoop,” line was basically perfect along with other relatable bars. The hook of the song ingeniously interpolates Cece Peniston’s “Finally” to good measure. Whoever had the idea to flip the lyrics deserves rounds. Mustard came through strong with a few nice keys on the piano and progression to keep things interesting. You can track how he has evolved his style while still remaining true to his come up. I’m highkey hoping that Travis and Mustard’s ventures into other musical realm will inspire others to do so as well. We live in a world more connected than ever and I hope musicians continue to play their role in that.

Fusion Saga: Bryson Tiller Goes Super Saiyan

On 10-9-14, Bryson Tiller released “Don’t,” a song that would catalyze a shift in the music industry. From the production to his cadence over it, he discovered the formula that would form the thesis of his mixtape, T R A P S O U L.

Artists have been fiddling with the fusion of hip-hop and r&b for years now. Rappers would either sing their own hooks or collaborate with someone who could. A lot of this approach incorporated melody with no actual notes being hit. A couple trial runs, 808’s and Heartbreaks later, one of the biggest rappers in the game is singing almost or as much as he is rapping. Bryson Tiller is an innovator. While he may not be the first to step in this field, he is the one doing it the best. He walks the spectrum between hip-hop and r&b with ease. When it comes to his singing, he leaves no doubt of his skill. In regards to his rapping, his airtight flow is as variable and clean as any of your favorite rappers’. The deliveries of both skills are clear as the inner monologue in your mind while reading this article. What truly separates Tiller from the competition, or lack thereof, is the absence of parameters he puts on his approach. His genre convergence method is made from his ability to mix the styles in different proportions. When listening to your standard Tiller song, you’ll find yourself hearing irregular patterns built with r&b cadences and rap tendencies. The way he attributes a note to every syllable in his raps provides limitless combinations. With these infinite possibilities, this permits newfound originality, giving Tiller the potential to express himself more creatively than anyone we’ve heard thus far.

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I knew I wanted to have this project for myself when I realized how great the replay value is. So after driving through my county for two hours, from one sold-out store to the next, I finally found a copy-literally on my hands and knees in Best Buy. The production on this tape is definitely the most enjoyable in the car. Tiller has an amazing ear for instrumentals that fit the desired mood. The street fighter sample on “Sorry Not Sorry” is one of my personal favorites right now. The variety of feels from one track to another is perfect when combined with the soulful samples and bass-driven trap beats. Pen Griffey’s song structures allow him to exploit the beat to his will. He never feels out of place and always comes through loud and clear. The aesthetic produced matches the cover art of the tape: warm and ominous.

The timing and rollout of this mixtape is perfect. Tiller’s approach may seem like a lucky swing but he definitely has a grip on what he’s doing. He came up in a year where most of the artists I know released something and still found a way to stand out. He let “Don’t” do its work on the market and stir up attention leading up to release a full project built around the concept. While this approach may not work for everyone, Bryson made sure everything was done with care. The sound of the tape is unified and provides diversity at the same time. It drifts consistently from one song to the next due to wonderful sequencing. The songs are paced so that we get even changes in tempo and a mesh of rapping and singing based tracks to keep the listener’s attention. The intro and outro are great song choices and make sense down to the sounds of turning pages. The ordering of the first five tracks leading up to “Don’t” is similar to a first act in a play. The following song “Open Interlude,” acts as a great transition into “Ten Nine Fourteen,” which is the narration of everything that’s happened since he dropped “Don’t.” As a debut, T R A P S O U L is cohesive enough to really grasp who Bryson Tiller is as an artist and person.

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All we have to learn about Tiller is the music, photos and videos, and what he says in interviews. A couple scrolls through the grainy textures on his IG and you’ll see that he is pretty much a regular guy and has an adorable daughter Harley, who’s full of personality. Top to bottom, baseball cap and all, he has a very laid back style.

What reveals the most about Tiller is his content. Throughout the tape, he remains transparent to his listeners and keeps his subject matter relatable. This has helped him to construct a loyal following and effortlessly pull in more fans. He tells of his trials to become the best man he can be as well as his come up in his career. His self-awareness allows him to use braggadocio and vulnerability to his advantage while always continuing to be himself.

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Bryson Tiller’s recipe has led him to a unique place. His mode of art, along with his lyrical prowess, came together to create something new and enjoyable for music fans. He summed it up best on “502 Come Up” when he states “Trapsoul, man, I crack codes/Crack-Cocaine, man, that’s what we putting out.” This is one of those moments when the lyrics transcend the text and become a reality. Tiller has indeed cracked the code of the hip-hop and r&b fusion.

When the Plug Gives You Too Much Loud

high chuckeThe other night at church I listened to a sermon that discussed the importance of names and destiny. This speech ignited a thought process that led me to think about the uniqueness of my name and subsequently to the title of this website itself. The Book of Kush has a destiny that to some degree or another will be determined by its name. There is one part of this name that sticks out to me in relation to where I am in my personal musical studies.

Sound is very important to every aspect of my life. From infinite tones of human communication, to the steady balance of the natural and artificial environment, we are engulfed in these vibrations everyday. Somewhere down the line we learned to create and arrange sound to convey ideas and emotions. As we grow older our tastes change, and inclusively our preference for certain sounds. We evolve our palate by evolving and cropping what we value as a good sound.

Over the last few weeks I attempted to figure out what makes music sound good. This search brought me down many avenues and it wasn’t long before I realized that there wasn’t a “what?” that makes what we hear sound good but a ”who?” It’s the people responsible for a vast majority of our experience with sound. They’re the ones who built your headphones and car speakers. They are just as accountable for the acoustics for festival stages and even radio and television broadcasts. When it comes to music specifically, they are mainly in charge of recording, reproduction, mixing, and mastering. These are the audio engineers.

One of the more interesting aspects of music these guys work with is the dynamic range. Dynamic range is the ratio between the largest and smallest values of sound, instruments, parts or pieces of music. The value can usually be measured in decibels. You can basically think of it as the distance between the tallest and smallest bars that pop up on a SoundCloud stream. The range itself is the diversity of the sounds we hear on a track. This can span from 808’s and trap-hats to a soulful Yeezy sample.

In this era it is almost customary for engineers to make songs louder. This practice is called dynamic range compression. Something seemed odd when I came across this idea. Why would you want to limit part of what makes a track unique? I figured there were some benefits to this method though, like making vocals pop or throwing some reverb on an EDM track. But in the last few decades the music industry has caused what a lot of people call a “loudness war” in an effort to make an artist’s music more audible. The first thing I thought about is how the older generation complains about how loud music is nowadays; they may be closer to the truth than we give them credit for. When an audio engineer seeks to make a track louder they use a method called upward compression. This increases the volume of the quieter parts of the music to reduce the range of the sound in a mix (Think about how the SoundCloud stream would look now.) It limits and narrows the range on a sonic level to a flatter but overall louder product.

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This whole procedure becomes a lot easier to understand when you think about the typical TV experience. You may be watching some broadcast and then a commercial pops up and what follows is kind of crazy to me. The commercial is blaring at a level you didn’t know your TV could reach. No, you aren’t sitting on your remote and this is definitely not your fault. It’s the people broadcasting a signal into your home as loud as they can to throw whatever advertisement they are interrupting your program with now. This is right on track with the radiating effects of the loudness war.

I’ve always valued the saying “quality over quantity.” The reverse applies here, where the quantity is the level of sound we are receiving over the quality we deserve. The compression of sound actually reduces the quality of the music we are listening to as a sacrifice in competition. This isn’t just from an aesthetic standpoint either. Digital compression, the method [no man] responsible for packing music into our phone, actually adds something to the framework. The addition isn’t a positive one by any means. In the compression of music the smooth wavelengths are turned into blocks of information in a format that can be played back by music programs. These actions take away parts of the music completely and contribute “noise” to the mix like flutters kicks and pops (think white noise).

Seems ironic that the mix is getting louder just to hear less of it. Metallica’s Magnetic Death album was reviewed fairly but the one complaint people had was the distortion all over the record. The excessive moves to make the record competitive actually caused a twisting in the composition of the music. I ask the question again: Is it really worth making things louder if you’re just going to take L’s in the final product? Artist Bob Dylan has described new music to sound like static at times with a lack of definition.

I apply a very specific concept when enjoying music for myself as a listener and out of respect for the artist. I like to imagine a universe with nothing except the music, similar to the way people use music as an escape. I concentrate on the composition as I focus my ears to catch whatever I can during the listening session. Each instrument has its own distance from where I place myself in this realm. I sort through the sounds and organize their position in relation to how I am hearing them at that moment. The effects placed on the vocals or instruments replace the natural forces that govern our universe. They are replaced by reverb, distortion and whatever intentions the artist has for that specific record, nothing more, nothing less. These are the basics of my ideal listening situation. When dynamic compression comes into play this experience is interrupted by an attempt to make everything uniformly loud. Positions aren’t defined anymore and there is a loss of perspective of where things belong in the composition. Imagine if a bull came charging through an orchestra and the sections were completely destroyed. This loss of perspective makes for a lackluster listening experience where everything is at the same volume, loud, and in your face.

This can be tiring when every part of the song is coming at you at once, possibly to the point of not wanting to hear it anymore. The loss of replay value here may sound familiar when you think about those now unbearable songs from last year that were played out. Those are the radio hits and singles that you couldn’t run from. You heard them consistently until you couldn’t take it anymore and started skipping until they were out of rotation. The radio stations do the same broadcasting techniques the music engineers engage in. With so much sound being thrown at audiences at once it’s no wonder people get tired of these songs so quickly (Minus the fact they get a crazy amount of rotation). This lack of internal dynamics takes away part of the experience and music. However, what happens to the songs we still like from the radio that don’t get played out? The songs that we play from our own CD’s and phones. If the mix you are listening chooses not to participate in this loudness war they might stand out when played on the radio and have more replay quality then other content might.

One of the more recent albums I’ve known to take this route is J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive. This album has remained on rotation for quite some time now. The first time I heard about the loudness war was from J. Cole himself. He said that he chose not to compete in the campaign and I believe it helped him to succeed in a way others couldn’t. He allowed the music to have its breathing room, with no constriction on the instrumentation. The sound was more cohesive as a whole and the intentions were heard loud and clear. Cole is a very special artist to listen to because of how in tune he is with his emotions. This comes across throughout the record as we found him revisiting a lot of events in his life. Also known for being such a good storyteller, having the mix sit behind his vocals was the perfect combination. Cole’s voiced shined through perfectly and the overall quieter sound allows us to pay attention better. Shout out to the engineer, Juro Mez Davis, whose performance created a beautiful sound for us to enjoy as intended. Interviewer Ali Shaheed Muhammad said it well, stating it had “a touch of classic but it’s new and fresh.” Just imagine if Kendrick chose not to mix his album to fit all the instrumentation. It would sound like a giant mess of echoing nothingness. Not to mention all the adjustments to his voice that were crucial to the story.

 

 

We can see the influence of the audio engineer on the career by looking at the success of Drake. I can confidently say that without Noah “40” Shebib, Drake wouldn’t be where he is now. Working together since So Far Gone, these two have spent countless hours forming one of the best duos since Outkast. The Ovo Sound they have created has influenced the rest of their beloved 6 as well as become a trademark to ears across the world. Their bond permits them great communication, trust and plenty of ideas going back and forth. 40 works hard to make sure that we are hooked the first time we hear a song whether it’s on a computer, lo-fi or hi-fi speakers. Whatever the case, he wants the symphonic composition to be there and is well aware of the loudness war going on.

 

The audio engineer is just as responsible for a great record as much as the producer or even the artist. I believe as listeners we should be aware of what we are hearing and as consumers we should demand the best product. Tidal reminded me that streaming services have cut the product as well. They’re advertising their streaming quality as better than Spotify and Apple Music as well as giving the artists more money in the process to make the final sale. But why switch over to this service? I think most of our generation of 20somethings and younger are conditioned to this watered down material. Look at the state of music now. What do lyrics matter in a mix that is extremely loud anyway? They present themselves in a manner that is less about the aesthetic and more about the delivery of a brand. We have artists taking a minimalist approach to their sound and spitting incoherent lyrics. The music of artists like Kanye West and Atlanta artist, Father use very few sounds per track. These are both great producers in their own right but look at the time they thrive in. Most sounds are getting lost in the mix anyway so why add more just to throw them in the muddle? These are just the thoughts that run through my head along with my woes about where music may go moving forward.

Jay Rock, Paper, Scissors

I always find it amazing what makes my day. It could be a customary generator of happiness, like interactions with loved ones, or a new accomplishment. Good music has always provided the soundtrack to my better days and today is no different.

Jay Rock, sometimes called the Raphael of TDE, has released some heat. “Money Trees Deuce” is the continuation of the forest fire he left on the third verse of the original song. Rock has not released much content in his name since his 2011 project Follow Me Home but those following him know he has been bodying songs left and right. From “Money Trees” off GKMC to YG’s “I Just Wanna Party,” this man has proven himself a very destructive guest artist. Following up one of his best verses from an album that has reached masses was pretty clever. This is a great move to get his solo work off the ground and into new ears.

Kendrick and Jay Rock took the idea of money growing on trees and transcended the idea to a new place of understanding. The “money trees” they are chasing find their meaning more in why they are pursuing them rather than what they are. It doesn’t take much to grasp the situation these two have grown up in. All you have to do is close your eyes and let the imagery heavy lyrics hit your ears and subsequently, your hearts. Ever so strategically, Kendrick puts a lot of the conviction of the song into the hook. He details two poisons to the listener and tells them to pick one; sounds like a bleak situation to me. K. Dot continues to illustrate the toxin’s effect on a person and the opportunities money will open up for him. If the situation hadn’t been coherent enough, Jay Rock comes in like a meteor summing up everything with a relentless delivery. In a show stealing few breaths, we learn of a personal case of the very real world he resides in.

“Money Trees Deuce” revealed to me something very dark, saddening, and just plain unfortunate. Some people, actually most, chasing after the shade of money trees won’t reach them. They’ll get caught up in the heat of the streets and never feel the cool security of the shade. I have a feeling that is precisely why Jay Rock created this follow-up.

I love the choice of instrumental for this song. It sounds like the sonic manifestation of nostalgia. Every sound contributes a part to the mood and tone. Rock’s cadence fits perfectly and allows him to bring home the concept of money trees one more time. This time around he came with a much tighter and grittier flow. For those who may not know what I mean by tighter flow, pay attention to the breath control and placement of syllables over the beat. Just because an artist isn’t rapping fast doesn’t mean the melody isn’t any less complex. As listeners we are shouldering much more explicit content and the world portrayed is grimmer in this sequel. Hence the line “Wigs splitted, cantaloupe, yeah we see that every day.” Jay Rock re-emphasizes the poisons mentioned in “Money Trees” and how they infect the community of Watts. We hear of constant problems arising rapidly, back-to-back at that. We learn of Rock’s efforts to save himself from this hell and the dangers he and his family are exposed to, just to figure out he is trapped in a cycle where money trees are the only way out.

With not much hope left for Jay Rock, he gives an incredibly inspirational outro. This flick of the switch sheds some light on the shadows cast by these money tree$. He reminds us of something so candid it could go over the most enlightened minds. Throughout everything we have experienced with Rock in-and-out the soundscape of the song he tells us to push forward, believe in ourselves, and to never stop chasing our goals. This man has clearly reached his and remained sturdy like the rock he is, enduring but not forgetting any and all of what he has been through.

I’m a sucker for music with a higher purpose than just entertainment so this track hits me a bit harder the average pass-the-aux record. Hopefully this can get the reach its predecessor did and touch just as many hearts in the process.