TJ Francis – Free Your Mind EP Review

So I have no knowledge of TJ Francis other than he is an MC from West London. At the moment in the UK Hip Hop scene it seems like a lot of newer artists that are coming up are just riding the current trends. These current trends at the moment are the Afro stylings of J Hus/Kojo Fundz or trap music. Whilst I personally have no problem with either, It can be quite repetitive looking for new artists to listen to.  Personally i believe the diversity of the UK scene is what makes it head and shoulders better than the US.

The first track on this mixtape Hustler prayer ft Keys is perfectly placed as instantly it grabs you. I really enjoy the instrumental, but for the life of me I don’t know what song it is from.  It’s perfect grown up road music. What I really enjoy about the track is that is that lyrics are the forefront of the song. The one nit-pick with the song however is the chorus, whilst musically the chorus is fine and the singer Keys’ vocals are good, sonically the chorus isn’t mixed as well as the rest of the track. I wouldn’t be surprised if the chorus was recorded separately. A Strong track nonetheless

The next track Trouble is actually the best track on the mixtape. It’s no secret that I seriously rate story telling. I believe songs such as this enforce my belief that rap is just poetry with music. The instrumental is a beautiful accompaniment to the lyrics as it’s got a subtle ambient vibe. The chorus on this track is the perfect partner to the verses. Unfortunately the singer on the track isn’t credited which is a shame as he brings pure emotion to the chorus. One small thing I would change is that I wish that the chorus had an added instrument, This in my opinion would bring in an added intensity. That however isn’t a criticism just an observation.

The Messages to Fallon interlude is a nice touch.

Wish You Well Feat Mad J & MNELIA is a proper grown up song. Even though the track is essentially just one verse it still manages to get the message across of what he is saying. One certain line really stuck with me.

“I wanna simple life, buff wife and a mortgage”

and if we can’t buy it twice then it means we can’t afford it

And that’s alright cause all these moments are rewarding

Living comfy with your rider is a better feeling than balling”

That right there is the most grown up shit I’ve heard this year so far. As someone who doesn’t buy into the superficial bullshit most rappers feel inclined to spout. I love it when someone raps something real like this. The song ends with an interview snippet from Biggie Smalls in which he chastises rappers not being themselves and just copying what’s popular.   

Old Me Feat Wilbury War Boys is in my opinion the weakest song on the mixtape. That in itself is actually a compliment because it’s not a bad song it just isn’t as good as the other tracks. It’s also more the featured act’s song. However I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that their name just reminds me of those minions in Mad Max. I do like the chorus and the instrumental on this track.

And finally the last two tracks Where I Come From & Best Friend are covers. Now I don’t mind covers just not too many and I don’t care much if it is not a cover that is being overdone. However as Tj Francis himself has bars he actually pulls it off. I honestly believe his cover of Ed Sheeran here is better than stormzy’s

Final Thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed and I can gladly say I am happy I chose this mixtape to review. Whilst it doesn’t re-invent the wheel it is a strong body of music. Also in the current climate it is a respite from the copycat styles.  I also wouldn’t have minded one or two more songs but the length does leave you wanting more. It is a thoughtful grown up reflection on life in which the lyrics are the centre stage. I advise to check this out as it good

 

Flow – 8/10

 

Lyricism – 8.5/10

 

Beats/ Production – 8/10

 

Songcraft – 8/10

 

Concept/ Originality 7.5/10

 

Final Score

40/50

 

http://hoodtapes.co.uk/tj-francis-free-mind-ep/

NDubz – Love.Live.Life Throwback Review

Love.Live.Life

This takes me back to my teens. I’m not going to lie I was a big fan of N-Dubz back in the day however I realised how cheesy they were. However I can never say I ever got the urge to listen to their full album let alone buy it. So today I am reviewing their 3rd album before going on hiatus and all trying solo careers. I know very few of the songs on this album. This album also came at the height of their pop sound and a lot of street edge was mostly gone.

Intro /Outro

With a song to start of the intro you get a full blast of 2010 in your face. With the cheesy piano laden pop backing. Oddly Dappy raps about how life can be hard and name checks Gaza and Basra. Honestly these are not the people I come to for social commentary. It sounds like the snippet of a song that did not make it onto the album.

Best Behaviour

Before I play the song for myself I’m not going to lie I was a massive fan of this song back in the day. It still should be on my iTunes somewhere however I have not listened to it in a while so here we go. (Three Minutes Later) Well the autotune use on this is criminal. However as much I enjoy there are many flaws. This song came out at the height of their crossover appeal the pop cheese that infects this track is serious. And the chorus kills any street credibility they thought they still had at this point. On a positive note Fazer’s productions here though cheesy is quite good.

Took It All Away

With a distorted guitar starting the track I was not sure to expect with this track. Another track about breaking up. This is a solid track. Tulisa and Dappy have great interplay on songs. Also Tulisa sounds much better when she has to go the straight pop route and not try to edge to her lyrics.  Producer Zero Gravity helps Fazer on this track as it still sound like a pop track but that guitar in the back really brings it together. Also there is a guitar solo as the outro never thought I’d be saying those words

Living for the Moment

Listen here folks this is what happens when you overuse autotune. This makes it sound like Tulisa can’t sing. And to be honest the chorus isn’t great, the way she is singing it making worry that they needed overdubbing and autotune to cover. Dappy raps are serviceable for this track. Also I am not a fan of this beat either it’s just far too American and generic. Tulisa’s verse on the other hand is a highlight of the track and is possibly one of her best verses. Fazer has a quite good verse showcasing his underrated rap skills. The track really picks up in the second half.

Love Live Life

This is a generic 2011 dance track with Tulisa singing the vocals. It barely counts as an N-Dubz track. Not surprisingly the producers on this are free school. The amalgamation of electronic songwriters and producers which just seems like a suggestion from the label. The song is soulless and boring

Scream My Name

So shockingly Fazer actually begins this track.  His verse has absolutely nothing to do with anything. The chorus seems a random inspirational chorus. Dappy’s verse also has nothing to do with anything either. I’m so confused also both verses are like 8 bars long the chorus is double that. I’m sensing laziness as none of the elements of the song sound right they just sound like they were pressed for time nd grabbed a random chorus and random lyrics.

Toot it And Boot It Ft YG

What? I looked at the track list and had to double-check. This was the first YG song I ever heard but I did not realise N-Dubz had a version let alone on their album. Also this track was penned by Ty Dolla $ign. I love this song also Dappy holds his own on this version. You learn something new every day.

Skit ft Fearless

This is a formula that works just give Dappy a fast-moving beat and let him go. It is songs like this that reminds people still has bars. This is just a showcase for Dappy and fearless. This fearless guy is really good it’s a shame nothing happened with him as he has bars. Good hard track

Love Sick

This is a Tulisa solo track. Like I said earlier Tulisa had the potential to be a proper pop start if she had stayed straight pop like this track. This is where she excels as her vocals lend themselves well to this type of music. It’s such a shame as she had it all there in front of her to be big. The song is decent the chorus is really catchy and you might catch yourself singing along.

So Alive

A completely different sound however that is not surprising as the Don Skepta produced this track. The beat is dark and interesting. Skepta has never disappointed with his verses. This is a good song in which everyone brings their A games. Fazer especially rises to the occasion as he shows he can rap much better than he usually shows.  From what he has said interviews that whenever he is in a room with other MC’s especially grime MC’s he raises his level.

Girls

I hate this song. I hated it then I hate it now. The reason is sonically it sounds horrible. From the bullshit lyrics to the generic beat to the droning autotune chorus

Cold Shoulder

This is dance party song. The song itself is decent. Both Dappy and Tulisa are great on the track however the song doesn’t say anything about anything. The beat is probably the most interesting about the song as you could listen to it alone without the vocals

Morning Star

Another Free school production and another generic soulless pop song. My god do these guys just suck the personality of songs. I’ve decided how to describe their production

Boring

Laborious

Arduous

Non-song

Dull

Bonus track – We Dance On

Ah who could this gem of a song? I absolutely hate this song. A song about generic song about standing up for something. I hate everything this song stands for. Also how dare you use Pachelbel’s Canon in D like that and think it is ok. One journalist for the BBC likened the bridge to BOB FUCKING MARLEY! I kind of hope the guy got fired. Just joking but seriously though Bob Marley. This song sounds like it was written by a group of executives looking at spreadsheets.

 

Final Thoughts

This Album received mixed reviews at the time and that is so true. This album has shining moments then it is also littered with crap. However after listening to interviews and just generally being a fan for years this album just scream label meddling. The both songs that were penned by Free School are no surprise a label idea as that year they were on fire with Nearly everyone in that camp winning some kind of ASCAP which is the songwriter awards. Therefore from a labels point of view if they pay these record producers for track they will get instant hits. Unfortunately these tracks have nothing in them other than standard pop formula. I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave them tracks on a memory pen and told them to add vocals.

Around this time there was talk in the media of Tulisa being the breakout star of the group as she had been in Dubplate Drama and other acting gigs. She had also been announced as the new judge on the X-Factor in May of 2011. I never understood this as she was always the expendable one of the group. However you can see the potential for her to be a breakout star on this album

I think the biggest surprise on the album is how better N-Dubz work better themselves than with other producers.

Overall an ok album. To be honest at this point a hiatus was best for their careers because both Dappy and Tulisa had ambitions of solo stuff. For Tulisa it was to be a popstar, for Dappy it was just to make his own music. Also at this point Fazer was first being burnt out as the primary songwriter and producer and second he needed to step back from N-Dubz as his production work and rapping ability were both quite underrated when he was in the group.

So it is 2016 and honestly with the legal trouble all three have been through in the five years since breaking up I honestly think now is the time for them to get back together. Fazer is going to release new solo stuff soon so I am for one looking forward to that.

 

Flow – 7.5/10

 

Lyricism –  6/10

 

Beats/ Production – 7/10

 

Songcraft – 7.5/10

 

Concept/ Originality 7/10

 Final Grade

35/50

Mostack – GWB In-depth Review

Mostack is a rapper who I have always heard about and also seen his name about on link up tv and SBTV and whatnot. I’ve only really listened to the north London rapper on features on which he’s usually good. With a the release of a Mixtape as well as selling out his headline show at the 02 Academy Islington I felt this is the perfect time to review someone up and coming riding a wave of momentum.

With lots of jokes in his bars, A willingness to make fun of himself, afrobeat influences in his music and mannerisms, Catchy flow and hooks as well as being able to balance that with a hard street edge Mostack instantly reminded of J Hus which is great as he features on Why would you lie to me in which both have street raps over a dark menacing beat. Mostack has a solid verse however J Hus is in full road mode on this and murders this beat. The one thing however with is there may be a few too many ad libs in mostacks verse however that is such a small nitpick and it doesn’t hurt the song too much.

Stop Lying Pt.2, I just wanna Tango, Fuck this generation, I do are the tracks on this for the people who aren’t fans of the sing-song style or the jokes. These songs are hard and having them on the mixtape gives it the perfect edge. Theres just hard bars throughout these tracks.

I remember ft Scammy and Should Know ft Jiggz are both tough tracks with the first one having an amazing chorus and an energy. The latter track literally had me with my eyes closed just bopping my head along. Both featured artists are actually showcased on these tracks and they deliver and leaving you want to hear more from them.

He in my opinion is at his strongest when being introspective and just being himself. He shows you don’t need crazy flow or really complex ways to say your story. On Let’s get Away and Pornhub & Cream with the latter track being a celebratory track show how much has changed for him and it feels so natural there’s no bragging about ridiculous wealth. The beat on the latter track is simple and works quite well. However there is a small problem with the auto tune singing in the backgreound of the track but it is just a nitpick.

For an artist who uses a lot jokes you would be forgiven for thinking he wouldn’t be able to handle a deep subject. However on Shot by the Police Man & Blud! Stop The Violence he does it in way that shows you don’t need to be an educated conscious rapper to tackle these subjects effectively.  On the first track he tackles the problem of police and racism something he speaks of from his own experience.  By using his own experience only it radiates with the listener on a more personal level especially if you are young and black.  On the second track he speaks on gang crime. There’s two lines from this that stick out to me in this track

You know what’s funny, I moan about black and black crime but when I see my enemies ima have to hurt somebody”  

“How we ever gonna prosper if we keep sending brothers to the doctors”

The instrumentals on both tracks convey the deepness of the topics perfectly.

My Cocaina Ft Ekeno & Estelle LaVaud is a good solid track lyrically however I’m loving the beat so much that there is times when im just enjoying the beat and not really paying to the lyrics. I honestly could listen to this beat by itself which is a compliment to the producer who created it.  Ekeno has a good voice that sounds like the early 2000’s for some reason. Estelle LaVaud gets a verse on this and the first thing I thought it’s that she reminds me of early Tinashe. Her voice is good if a little bit unoriginal.

Getting Shot Was a Blessing

What is effectively a freestyle is such a good song and just works. The acoustic guitar accents his story. His bizarre break in the middle when he starts singing is so chilled and relaxed that you just have to enjoy it.

On the tracks fuck your Man, Tonights your night and Feeling like stormzy there is small problems throughout them however through the sheer force of personality he makes up for it.

It’s Over

What starts as a typical road song. He starts rapping about the usual i.e. Big batty gyals, taking other people’s girls etc. It sounds good if a bit unoriginal in topic and then the track switches completely. It switches to a guy a crying about dishonesty from his girl. He laments that he doesn’t trust anybody anymore after this betrayal. All whilst using delivery that sounds like he just seen his girl cheating. The instrumental changes as well from typical street banger  to a solemn piano laced track. This is the moment that I realised this guy is good like really good. At first I listened to this track and thought it was a tad bizarre within the context of the other tracks up to this point.  However the next track is what made me clear on what i think about him.

Murder ft Moelogo

The intro of this song is a continuation of the last with him still crying about the girl leaving him. The song begins with the three words “Nah Fuck That”. This is modern man’s break up song. No tears, no stories just going out afterwards to forget about it. Now onto the song it is a BANGER ! This should be getting played everywhere around the country. It  has a banging beat that makes you wanna dance. I love everything about this song. His bars, Delivery, Flow all work even when he starts singing it works perfectly. Now onto Moelogo his verse is fire and the afrobeat stylings just put this song over the top. It was during this song where I officially declared myself a Mostack fan.

Final Thoughts

Wow just wow

This guy has momentum and Buzz, He 100 % percent deserves it. He just needs to keep doing what he is doing. When you start listening to him you can’t help noticing the j hus comparisons. But they are just stylistic similarities. Honestly I’m finding it hard to say anything more positive about the guy

Honestly If you get the chance listen to his mixtape. If I was in London I would definitely trying to go to his next show. Without Knowing much about him beforehand I am so happy to have found an artist to look forward to hearing their new music.

I have honestly become a big fan from this so hopefully he keeps it up.

 

Flow – 9/10

 

Lyricism –  8.5/10

 

Beats/ Production – 9/10

 

Songcraft – 9/10

 

Concept/ Originality 9/10

 Final Grade

44.5/50

 

 

Aystar – Scousematic

Having never really listened to an artist from liverpool before I had no idea what to expect. From the name of the mixtape however I guessed it was gonna be typical gang/street B.S. and boy was I right.  What we have here is a 16 track mixtape that at times drags.

 

On Intro & Don’t Quit this is a good way to start as it tells you everything what your about to hear. Liverpool Street raps that are rhymed through a thick scouse brogue. His gun raps are sharp however and he gives a sense that he knows what he is talking about on these tracks.

 

2 On Ft Safone & Truffle Butter ft Kingsley in both songs Aystar’s Verses are boring as he just rattles of the exact same thing. however both Safone and Kingsley completely outshine him which happens a lot in this mixtape. As both these artists are on their A game.

 

Minds Gone, Fuck The System, Quiet Storm, Lean Back, I Need You Freestyle actually brings the whole mixtape down and if they weren’t on the mixtape it would be better spaced and be allowed to breathe. It would also serve the mixtape better as the best songs are left. These songs however are make the whole mixtape Too long and these songs are crap plain and simple.

 

Cheeky Bastard

Another song that sounds more like the featured artists song instead of aystar’s. This especially as the song is completely different from the rest of the mixtape. With a great upbeat chorus. And vocals that stay perfectly in the background. This song is just fun. Aystar actually has an alright verse it just seems like the he is trying to fit to the instrumental and the hook.

 

Oh No Freestyle & Scousematic Freestyle

Maybe his best example if you’re introducing him to someone new. This is him at his best that is either a good thing or bad thing your choice.

 

Best Song

 

Dont Quit ft C4ent / Cheeky Bastard ft Kingsley

 

Final Thoughts

 

If it is a chore to listen to the whole mixtape from end to end then you have put too many songs on it. His biggest problem is that he does not seem like this super real respected killer thug shooter drug dealer ladies man king of south Liverpool that he rhymes about. That would be OK if he were playing a character but he is not.

 

Now I could be wrong and he could be all that it’s just that he doesn’t Seem it . There’s almost no conviction in his words and a lot of this comes from his flow whilst he a decent rapper everything he says is said in the same inflection same tone same cadence. This only really works if you have a deep voice. It comes across more lethargic than criminal.

 

One more thing and this is to all rappers out there don’t  EVER load up your mixtape with people who are better than you. Every single featured artist on this mixtape is better than him it baffles me how nobody in his camp could have foreseen this happening. Yes it opens you up to more fans however you come across as worse for it. So Aystar is rough a giant lump of coal but there is something there lets hope he can find it.

 

Grade

Flow – 7/10

 

Lyricism –  6.5/10

 

Beats/ Production – 6/10

 

Songcraft – 5.5/10

 

Concept/ Originality 5/10

Final Score

30/50

J Spades – 36 Hours Review

After leaving hip hop and coming back J Spades has lacked consistency in his creativity. Now there is nothing wrong with a rapper trying to branch out and do other things in his music. It just feels like he doesn’t want to fully try something new without risking his street fans. It’s like he dips a toe in, waits for feedback and jumps back out. I just sometimes wished he could maintain trying something new because there is sometimes that feeling like he is not progressing as a musician.

 

On Expensive J Spades raps about how his new life costs much more and that he is still working for the money. It’s a solid track that would be great to bump in you car. His Cover of Lock Arff is good as he is the perfect artist to be on that song.

 

However This is where the mixtape takes a wrong turn  as for a couple of tracks j spades just does covers with the songs original hooks left in. Which is a shame as he has some good verses there. His covers of Bank Roll & No Games are particularly good but its such a shame as it just seems lazy.

 

On Angel Blues ft Abel miller we see a completely different side to J spades as he has shown he can make smooth R’n’B hip hop. Obviously a move to gain more of a female fanbase which is a smart move. However though it says it is featuring abel miller it is actually Mr Miller’s song ft J spades. He continues down this path on Tek It Off ft Ashton R. Which is a sultrier less club R’n’B and more for the bedroom. Which to me does shows some growth as an artist who has seen there is more to just making street songs. On another Note Ashton R here sounds like a UK Trey Songz. It’s these types of songs that is an example of him trying something new.

 

Rico ft A.Crnsy is a wavy track that people will be bump in their car. A. Crnsy brings an afrobeat feel to the track and J spades brings a hard verse that flows so smoothly.

 

YDG actually feels more like an opener than a closer if they had switched them it would have worked better however that’s just a nitpick. I say this because the track has a nice funky soulful beat and J Spades has an energetic verse that is short and sweet.

 

Final thoughts

 

This mixtape is called 36 Hours and I don’t doubt this mixtape was made in that time frame. The reason I say this is because there are five one verse covers with the original song hooks, and 4 songs in which the featured artist does all the heavy lifting. I guess because it is just a mixtape I shouldn’t expect more but when other artists in this genre are making quality mixtapes unless you are the top boy you can’t put out lazy mixtapes. Musically this is mixtape sounds good there is no bad tracks on it but at times it feels just a bit safe and underwhelming. So if you are already a J spades fan you will enjoy this if not this  won’t change your opinion.

 

 Grade

Flow – 9/10

 

Lyricism –  7.5/10

 

Beats/ Production – 6.5/10

 

Songcraft – 8/10

 

Concept/ Originality 4/10

Final Score

35/50