The Headphone Review: More Life

First Listen Reviews Don’t Cut It For These Projects

Let’s get one thing out of the way: don’t bother listening to Drake. This isn’t a “playlist project”. It isn’t an album either. It’s a collection of every single Drake that his fans have been introduced to in years gone by, all packaged together to absolutely smother all of us in his music. Continue reading

Knee Jerk Review: Future’s Future

Welcome to Knee-Jerk Reviews, where I listen to an album or song, or whatever else, and write my thoughts out to it as I listen. This format is inspired by the good folks over at DJ Booth, so please check them out (they’re dope).

Let’s get it right out of the way – I’m a Future fan. I even wrote something about him being to Trap what Beyonce is to Pop music. You can read that and disagree with me here. I’m not going into this unbiased, so don’t look for a huge dash of objectivity here. I’m also trying to type this out really quickly over lunch. If you’d like another view on this album done after one listen, check DJ Booth out. They’re certain to have one. Let’s dive in.

Rent’s Due….

First cut on this new surprise LP (it’s 17 tracks long. Way longer than I prefer) is Rent Money. The beat is punching my eardrums with the force of a tropical storm. Future sounds a lot more energised on this than he has on previous stuff. He’s been sounding a lot more passionate recently anyhow. Remember Used To This? This is that grimy Trap. I like how it’s knocking. This is going to give people’s speakers a real workout. Super is off to a flying (if a little unsurprising) start. Future is driving home the point that he had sex with some rapper’s girl in the hook. Welp.

There’s an interlude at the end of the cut, banging at the door from the landlord. The track then cuts off. What’s next? I’m going to bang that one again.

I Missed This Stuff More Than I Thought!

Good Dope is taking me right back to older Future cuts. Slower pace, more deliberate, letting the 808 drums lead the way. The mumbles are clearer than ever though. Future shouting out the quality of his dope on this work in a thoroughly hook-heavy affair that’s over way too quickly. This track could have done with a feature from young 21 Savage. I mean, we know that these two cook up that heat when they link up, so why not? But then again there are no features on this project, so I suppose it was a conscious decision. Next up, is Zoom. I’m objectively enjoying this so far, which I honestly didn’t think I would after the latest Migos offering, Culture, served up a template of what Trap could really sound like with more sonic risk-taking.

Zoooooooom!

Awwwwww this beat SLAPS. Did Metro Boomin produce this? This is hard! Super has switched his flow up to a more modern mumble style, one adopted by most trappers who don’t opt to copy the Migos’ flow. This is tight, and the energy from the opener is back. Future definitely sounds much less hazy. There’s a surge of clarity in his delivery that’s almost striking if you’ve listened to Dirty Sprite 2 recently (I listened to that, EVOL, Beast Mode and What A Time To Be Alive).

These tracks are pretty short, which is good. The bit at the end has a little interlude to give us an intro to the next track, from DJ Esco, screaming about Dracos. Is this a slight dig at Soulja Boy and his obsession with the baby AK and social media frontin’?

Draco (brrrrrrrrrrahhh!)

Draco is Future back to his more rhythmic modern stuff, with the beat sitting nicely alongside his ever-odd crooning. If you don’t follow good ol’ Drake on Instagram, he got an advance copy of this album, and he plugged this track, saying he spun it back “900 times”. I can understand why this would get the repeat. This exists for the strip club, and to punch the life out of trunk sound systems everywhere. Draco is the first viral dance video soundtrack on the album. No Bad and Boujee here, but it’s a huge track. Let’s see if it blows.

Every Trap Needs a Hero

Super Trapper slides in to tone it down after Draco, (I must admit I wanted to spin it back) and this has to be the most “old” sounding track thus far. Future did mention he wanted to go back to his roots and connect with the fans, while returning to the underground ethics that got him his buzz. In that case, he’s definitely achieving what he set out to. So far, I have to mention, no track has made me want to skip. These are by no means epic Trap turns, but nothing here has straight up made me go “what the hell is this?”

Super bring Super Trapper to a close. The beats on this album are key. WHOA what’s this next track??!

POA

Aggressive doesn’t quite do the opening of POA justice. This thing straight up wedgied my ears after the grimy Super Trapper came to a close. Future is going in. He could actually sit on a track alongside the more lyrically-capable Migos at this rate. This actually sounds like he wrote lyrics for it. POA is the hardest track so far definitely. Aggression, bars (surprisingly) decently stacked up, the instrumental sufficiently intense. This is something I’d play in the club, definitely. Big cut! Good work on this, Fewch.

Gotta Chase A Cheque.

Super slows it down again, to make it a little didactic, on Mask Off. Side note: he’s back to calling himself Pluto a lot, isn’t he? Suppose that’s a nod to him returning to his underground roots. This is a track that would’ve settled in well on EVOL. Flex raps, slowly paced, with an instrumental that would do well as the background music of a hood kickback. I like the beat more than I do the song as a whole. This one is a little forgettable. I’d say this is the first sign of filler on the album. Not the best here, but well…

Demand Stays High

High Demand slides in even more mellow. The melody is on point though. Future is being rhythmic again and it really works with the beat. I like this, especially after the filler track before. This LP is whizzing by at pace. We’re already at the 7th track, but with 10 more to go, I’m still here a while yet. If he keeps the album this sonically diverse (I don’t care about what he’s saying, to be honest), I’ll be a happy man at the end of it. Future fans don’t really ask for much. Float over the Metro, Zay or 808 Mafia banger, give us a hook we can work with… We aren’t a demanding bunch.

We have segued into Outta Time which sounds like it belongs on Pluto 3D. I don’t really like this one. It’s the most sing-song-y one of all of the stuff I’ve heard so far. It’s short though, so that’s a relief. This track, more than any other, needed Drake. He would have rescued the instrumental. Hold on, just when he lost me, Grimy Future is back. Scrape pulled my thoughts away from Outta Time and slapped me with more low frequencies than a sound lab. Sheesh!

See, this is the thing about Future. No one else makes Trap like this. “Shkrape it out the pot when I cook it” repeated copious amounts in succession shouldn’t be as catchy as this. but it is, and even though the song is much slower than 100it Racks, the effect is the same. Grimy, addictive and hard as nails. This is a slapper. The “skrr skrr” ad-libs have never been more at home on a record. Banger.

For the first time, I’ve checked what track I’m on. I’m So Groovy sounds a lot like a Migos cut. Future actually copes with it, although a little awkwardly. His flow on this, with the incessant humming, actually lends it a lot of character. My biggest gripe with this album so far is the fact that Super decided against features even on tracks where they’re screaming for team effort. This track is the third one where I can literally hear Offset, Takeoff and Quavo trading bars, with a signature Quavo bridge to close it out. This really needed them. As is, it’s just okay. Probably won’t come back to this until the Henny’s in my system. This review’s gone on way too long, though! I’ll be back after I’ve listened to everything that’s left.

Six Songs Later…

This is a good project. By no means is it Future’s best. This isn’t no 56 Nights, DS2 affair. It’s not an evolution either. It’s not a regression. It’s an amalgamation of everything Super’s done up to this point, and it’s both a strength and a weakness of the project as a whole. After one listen, I can safely say the first half of the album is much stronger than the second. Feds Did A Sweep is a sombre closer that I quite enjoyed, but as with many of the tracks on this, it begs for variations brought by Future’s impeccable knack for collaboration. Will it continue the run? It definitely should. It’s a stellar project. Will it sell a million? I don’t care. Many of these songs are already on my “Fresh Finds” playlist on Spotify. Some of them are straight up boring however, and this is the thing – I have never listened to a Future project which doesn’t have those borefests. They’re much fewer here, so thankfully it seems like the man is finally honing in on what he excels at. I’m going to download this whole thing and rinse it, not because I’m a big Future fan, but because this is another stellar chapter in Book of Trap for 2017. Good one, Fewch.

Knee-Jerk Rating: 4 out of 5 Flame Emojis

Find Future’s latest album on Apple Music or iTunes. I haven’t come across it on Spotify. If you’re not a streamer, you’l probably have found it already by trappin’ out the bandwidth…

Share the love! Drop this link in your group DMs and timelines, and if you feel like my one listen was a joke, let me know why by hitting me up on Twitter.

The Headphone: Future is Trap’s Beyonce

This isn’t Clickbait. This is an Opinion.

Future isn’t underrated. He’s not under-recognised as far as Trap music goes. His influence is almost universally acknowledged, and no one in the rap game has taken shots at Hendrix. And now, on the eve of the release of his self-titled album Future, I felt it necessary to highlight just why Future is, to me at least, one of Trap’s most influential and necessary artists, and why he’s become to Trap, what Beyonce is to Pop music.

future-avra

Freebandz/Avra

Going back into Future’s discography, which is really extensive, we see the evolution of Future from a featuring artist who barely cracked a second glance on cuts alongside Lil’ Wayne and Drake, as well as the constant space references of Astronaut Status and Pluto, to being one of the most respected “mumble rappers” with a run of successful projects most rappers can’t match over the span of their entire careers.

He used to be a Regular Old Trapper

On Astronaut Status and Pluto, Hendrix had yet to find his niche. It’s clear though, that the foundations were forming. Nayvadius’ delivery – slow, considered, slurry and barely lyrical – keeps you listening. You have no idea why, but it’s a decidedly Southern, beat-focused affair on his early work. This is a pattern that Future has refined to include an even more slurry singing-esque delivery that is all his own. It’s been copied to death, but the man hasn’t lost his edge (his most well-known clone, Desiigner, hasn’t given the streets anything significant since his smash Panda). Future keeps growing sonically, just like the ever-shifting Sasha Fierce. Through numerous alter egos, soundscapes, Future’s managed to keep his core demographics – the strip club and dedicated Trap fans – satisfied and craving more. Even when he absolutely flooded us during the 7 Rings era.

Future’s Consistency is probably the Industry’s Most Sought After Quality

Look, just like Mrs Carter, Future almost never puts his name on duds. Features, projects, hell, even mixtape hosting roles – this guy has been and still is on one of Rap’s most enviable hit-making runs. From October 2014’s Monster right through to the classic 56 Nights, and to his latest EVOL, Hendrix has been dropping nothing but the most serious headbangers. And, unlike the bulk of today’s mumble trap cuts, many of these projects feature songs that stand the test of time, and that can get just about any crowd hopping.

Many critics gave the Drake x Future collab project, What A Time To Be Alive, the proverbial side-eye. “Drake didn’t bring his A-game.” “Future carried Drizzy all the way.” “Forgettable”, were just a few of the superlatives used to review this work. Yet, months later, standouts kept coming back into the consciousness of the music-buying public. Jumpman, Digital Dash and others served to prove just about everyone a little wrong. WATTBA was a thing, and when it worked, it gave us classics. In fact, Future’s ability to forge connections with other artists (just like Bey) could be his defining strength, and the key to his consistency. His biggest commercial success to date, Dirty Sprite 2, is testament to this discernment. Where Ya At? alongside the 6 God proved to be a smash, and is part of the reason why so many regard DS2 as Future’s best work.

“Well Future is consistent. Bangers on every project, personal or collaborated. DS2 is my favorite project” – Joshua, a writer.

“Codeine crazy best tune, DS2 best album” – Mufasa, a mean person and music fundi.

There’s a Reason the Future Hive Exists

Look, if drawing parallels between Bey and Hendrix doesn’t make sense to you from an artistic growth, sonic risk and sheer professional consistency perspective, let’s take it to the fans. Future has a band of fans who will just about say anything to support their hero. The Trap impresario barely ever acknowledges his rabid fanbase, preferring to keep them fueled with codeine-soaked bangers and subtle hints where he needs them to “ride” for him. Indeed, Futurevelli’s fanbase has defended him even in instances where he clearly seems to be in the wrong. His recently-ended tiff with ex Ciara over the custody of their child, and his “threats” towards her current sweetheart Russel Wilson in his music (for which Ciara instructed her lawyers to take action) saw fans flood Mrs Wilson’s social media feeds incessantly whenever Future dropped work. Flaming rose emojis when EVOL dropped, and umbrellas when Purple Reign came through were overwhelming shows of solidarity for the Freebandz Gang boss by his fans. Childish? Sure, but then it isn’t exactly like the Beyhive is without its own rather gag-worthy shows of loyalty for its chosen deity, now is it? (Seriously, rabid fanboy-ism is silly when it becomes poisonous and vile. Don’t do it for Future or anyone else. I don’t care whether you’re joking or not).

He went Quiet, and now Trap’s Favourite Son is About to Drop More Heat.

Hiatuses in music are frequent, and rarely ever culminate in noteworthy projects at their conclusion. In other genres, we get Frank Ocean’s Endless and Blond. Pop hiatuses yield Bey’s Grammy-winning Lemonade and Adele’s simply ridiculously successful 25. Rap? Especially Trap? Well, beyond one or two projects, such as A Tribe Called Quest’s magnificent We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service and Run The Jewels’ Run The Jewels III, there aren’t many extended breaks yielding work we can get worked up about. But this is Future. The man who had Rap’s most consistent run over two years despite flooding the market with work, the guy who brought Metro Boomin’ and to a lesser extent, Zaytoven to the fore as Trap’s Premiere and Scott Storch-esque go-to hitmakers… That man wiped his social media, took a break, went underground, and surfaced with a suitably ambiguous piece of artwork, a US tour with serious backup, and a title that couldn’t be more interesting: Future. Tomorrow, the internet gets to spazz out over new material from the man who made sipping codeine cool to impressionable kids the world over. And no one knows what to expect, but we all know it’s going to be heat. How?

future-new-album

Freebandz/Epic Records

It’s Future. Trap’s Beyonce. He doesn’t drop anything but heat. That’s how.

Bheki doesn’t write this stuff for a living, and has no idea what a byline even is. Half of the things he writes under The Headphone have barely been fact-checked, but they’re often kind of true in an alt-fact world. He likes music and video games, and if you want to talk, or argue about either of those things, you can find him on Twitter.

Asaph’s Diamonds Deserve Diamonds: The Knee-Jerk Review

Welcome to Knee-Jerk Reviews, where I listen to an album or song, or whatever else, and write my thoughts out to it as I listen. This format is inspired by the good folks over at DJ Booth, so please check them out (they’re dope).

I’m sitting on (not in) my bed, with the new EP by Asaph ready to spin. I’ve just woken up from a nap and I haven’t said more than 35 words since waking up. I’ve also just come from listening to the new Lupe Fiasco album and my brain wants more sharp bars. Something tells me this is going to be a little haphazard…

There’s a Girl Talking.

If you don’t know who Asaph is, he’s a rapper from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s cleanest city, who really enjoys doing concept albums. He’s always got a girl talking at the beginning of his projects. This is the title track, Diamonds Deserve Diamonds. The track is about a girl who gets mistreated by her man, and poor old Asaph is the man-in-the-middle.

Second verse is about his girl, who he’s been with for a year going on two, who is at university while he hustles (as most Zimbabweans do). She comes from a well to do family and he doesn’t seem to have it together, and he decides to let her go because, well, diamonds deserve diamonds and his broke ass isn’t cutting it.

End of the track. The girl from the beginning is singing (I think). Nice narrative. Let’s pause the play here so I can get my thoughts out. Christ, this isn’t easy. Bottom line? If you’ve heard a song from Asaph before, this isn’t anything new. The writing is sharper, tighter. He’s learned to say more with fewer words, and he’s tightened his storytelling. Still a unique style all of his own, but I have to say, his producer (Charlie Zimbo) does a lot of the heavy lifting in carrying this aural aesthetic forward. A whole lot. Class producer, this guy.

The narrative is cool, relatable too. Let’s go on to Goodbye Hello (ironically, Lupe Fiasco has a song title Hello Goodbye on his classic album The Cool. If I were a popular blogger I’d have to ring Asaph for an interview to ask him if any of this is intentional).

Hellooooo?

She’s talking again. Charlie Zimbo on the boards. It’s a slow jam. The instrumental is drenched in sizzurp and the slowest weed on the market. Asaph is going for a jiggy hop flow. I can’t pick out the rhyme scheme here but what’s notable is that he references using WhatsApp a lot. He’s saying goodbye to his ex, and hellooooo to the “hoes”.

It’s an angry song! Second verse is replete with angry bars about her leading him on and supposedly going for “blessers” (sugar daddies, basically). He notes that he isn’t salty but the irony is this is just about the saltiest song I’ve heard in 2017. He’s covered all the hurt bases here – “keep my cool clothes”, “you’ll probably meet your next man at my show”, etc.

If this is based on a true story, it’s funny as hell. Asaph declares that his female index is poppin’, so this break-up means nothing to him. Girls blowing up his WhatsApp and his DMs. Life is good for him, clearly. Solid song, if a little forgettable. Charlie Zimbo once again providing the canvas and the outline for Asaph to colour in the lines. I’m waiting for this project to jump out at me like Asaph’s earlier Fife Street Freestyle did. Not yet, but it’s well-made so there’s that.

Turn the Lights Out!!!

A girl is talking again, about people being desperate for diamonds. Cautionary tale approaching? Asaph is talking about the pressures of being a little famous, and how even without lights, he shines on with a few bonds.

Asaph has his own slang and I don’t know what on earth half of it means. “Burg sosh”? “Champs that want hype?” No idea. This song seems to be a braggadocious nod to his progress thus far. “I’m a speedboat to you tadpoles”, you know?! Is this the first I’ve heard of Asaph bragging? No idea but this is a nice cut. Mellow stuff.

The girl is back, talking about finding the diamonds in your life. Looking within yourself to find the gem you are, your family, religion etc. Hold on, these are all different women, right? Wow I’m an idiot. Next track!

Who You Like, Guuuurl?!

Asaph slows it down for the closer. Shades of A$AP Rocky (hold on…), with the deep pitch shifts of the ad-libs. He’s inviting his girl over for a rendezvous. Charlie Zimbo is diverse with these beats. He’s propositioning his lady friend to slide through to the crib in that short dress he likes, so they can get kinky and freaky.

It’s a smooth tune, this. I don’t know how it works as a thematic closer to a 4-track project but whatever, it’s a decent track. The flow is slow and considered, as it is on most of the project. The end has a bridge pitch-shifted that really, really reminds me of something I’ve heard elsewhere… Where did I hear this? It’s definitely very reminiscent of Rocky’s Electric Body. Trippy cut, not very original but at least he made his own, right? Right.

It’s Done. Thoughts.

You know, Asaph is a really productive Zimbabwean rapper who is trying to carve out a niche, and he has my respect for that (whatever that’s worth). At the same time, in an era where people are gaining notoriety or acclaim for pushing beyond the confines of mere refinement, Diamonds sounds to me like the iPhone 6S to the iPhone 6 that was his last full-length, KingsVilla 2. There’s not a whole lot of revolution. These tracks could fit right in with any other work he’s done, and while that fits his aesthetic, it also seems like a man resting on his laurels, and comfy within his zone. It’s well put together, well-executed. Above all, it’s really well-assisted by Charlie Zimbo’s beats. It just isn’t anything groundbreaking. I can’t pick out a favourite beyond the brag-heavy No Lights. I hope good ol’ Asaph is back in the studio, cooking something fresh, maybe with a little less reliance on Charlie’s prowess and his niche, for us to discover.

Knee-Jerk Rating: 3.5 Flame Emojis

Listen to Asaph’s Diamonds Deserve Diamonds for yourself below, and follow him on twitter:

The Headphone: Who Is Vera?

Ooooooh, Smooth.

Vera’s music was made known to me quite recently, and armed with her SoundCloud and YouTube links, I made my way through her online catalogue to see what was what, and to share my thoughts. The first song that played from her profile is a new one, and it’s called Tongai. It’s got great harmonies dancing about, and a catchy little melody. I can’t say a whole lot about the writing on this, but it’s a smooth listen.

I’d have loved to have spoken to Vera about some of her work (if I do, I’ll update this post), but I’m pretty swamped with life right now. By the time you read this, I shall be knee deep in adult things, with this blog post scheduled to post. All I’m going off is my being a fan of all kinds of music, and whatever it is I’m listening to while writing this. So, as I said up top, Tongai is a good listen if smooth jazz-pop is your thing.

A Word to the Wise, However…

The writing in Vera’s music isn’t the most thought-provoking or complex stuff you’ve ever listened to, to be honest. While her musicianship is undeniable (she plays the guitar, and does so really well, while having a controlled, interesting voice), the words she sings don’t really complement it much. As mentioned above, I’m playing music from her SoundCloud and YouTube accounts, and so far I haven’t heard lyrics here that really lend to the atmospheric, almost didactic nature of her singing. They do however, carry a message along just fine – she tells a story about her drunk driving escapade after being stopped by a police officer, for instance. It’s all just done in a very straightforward, slightly by-the-numbers manner which I feel doesn’t do her really great voice (and guitar skill) much justice. Still, it didn’t get to me to the point of being something I’d consider annoying.

Music, and Musicians, are a Product.

Products, by nature, must appeal to a targeted demographic. That’s how this stuff works. Vera’s product is a combination of her musical ability, as well as her overall aesthetic. So, how is she performing on that front? Well, I can’t really say. Not being on the ground in Harare means I probably won’t see her live any time soon, but a quick glance at her Twitter page shows she generally tweets about her music and related interests, etc. She’s not as “package-focused” with her social media engagement as, say, Tehn Diamond (a Zimbabwean rapper) is, what with his whole “man of the people, part of the people” aesthetic, evidenced by his use of mostly ephemeral media to give an insight into his behind the scenes life.

Vera is much more about the music, and just the music – a SoundCloud awash with vocal experiments that are blatantly imperfect, cover versions, acoustic sets from shows and more, will tell you that yup, she’s a muso, and not really intent on convincing anyone otherwise. Likewise, her YouTube is like a musical diary of her performances, and not really a curated lineup of her best work only. Tongai’s video description even has a grammatical error in it, for good measure.

Could this be why she’s not as known as, say, Shingai Mangoma (another Zimbabwean songstress, who has received a National Arts Merit Award for her work)? Well, yes and no. While both women sing well, Shingai seems a little more diverse in her approach to music. She seems more radio-friendly, and when she does put music out, it’s packaged and marketed effectively (I don’t know if she still makes music, though). Vera, in contrast, is who you’d go to see in a charming little dive on a Sunday and come away saying “why isn’t she more popular?”

She is Clearly Trying to Change That, Though.

With Tongai, her latest (and first proper original release, I assume) being a mash-up of her comfort zone Jazz-esque sound and Rhumba, I get the sense Vera is focusing in on both radio, and general Afro-Pop recognition. It’s produced by Military Touch Music’s Dj Tamuka, and it floats nicely against the ear, with guitars leading the melody along. If this is the direction Vera is going, it may just be a promising one. I say this because Afro-Pop (even of the chill variety) is rarely ever replete with thought-provoking writing. It’s a simple, catchy song that will likely appeal to older audiences who want to sing along to the simple lyrics. I like it, definitely, but given my predisposed preference for complicated and layered songwriting, I may not be the best person to judge the writing here.

One thing is for certain however, Vera is talented, and if she keeps this Tongai vibe going, she may just be on her way to a NAMA of her own.

Listen to Tongai below, and follow Vera on Twitter to keep up with her releases!

The Headphone Mini-cast: Natural Selection?

The Most Anticipated Album of our Generation?

Not quite. But not for the reasons you might think. I (Bheki) review Zimbabwe’s multi-talented Simba Tagz’ latest full-length offering, Natural Selction, in this really short audio post. This happens to be the very first review on The Lens Blur platform’s sub-blog, The Headphone. Do let me know your thoughts. It just so happens to be the most un-podcast-like mini-podcast in the history of mini-podcasts, but it does keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

Click play below to spin the review, and then come to my Twitter to argue with me about it. Any feedback is welcome, and do remember to support Simba Tagz by spinning the album on his SoundCloud, and by buying it whenever it’s put on your platform of choice. Enjoy!

 

The Headphone: Big Sean > Kendrick?

Hold up… What?

Hear me out. I happened to tweet something a day ago, after giving Sean Don’s latest drops a little listen. Some people agreed, some others literally exhausted their 140-character limit laughing. If you haven’t yet, I suggest you line up both of those tracks – No More Interviews and Bounce Back – and give them ears while you read through this argument for Sean’s chops vs “Rap’s Saviour”.

Kendrick Lamar is top 5 rapper alive right now. Of that, there is little doubt in my mind. The man hasn’t got a single weak project in his discography, and even his B-Sides get more sales than highly anticipated gangsta rap. He has a technical range seldom seen in modern rap, and his delivery and performance is second to none. So why is Sean even being mentioned in the very first post for The Headphone?

Big Sean just might be Rap’s most underrated lyricist right now

Why doesn’t anyone seem to have Sean in their top 5? Sure, K Dot has a flawless discography as compared to Sean’s own rather checkered release list. Also, Sean is a much more conventional lyricist in terms of his subject matter…. Or is he?

I usually take liberties when discussing music, and to that end I’m not going to explain myself in words. I’m going to leave a playlist of Big Sean’s nuttiest lyrical flexes for you to listen to at your leisure, along with some essential Kendrick. Sean ain’t no punk fam.

He handles real subjects in a simple, yet technically impressive manner, with flows that no one else would even dare tackle. His quick rapping technique is still one of the most interesting out there, and he still manages to have one of the coldest slow flows in rap. How? Kendrick’s best (most talked-about) lyrical flourishes are when he packs insane amounts of rhymes in small spaces. He’s celebrated for this technique, as is (arguably the best rapper of all time) Eminem. But Kendrick doesn’t really say much when he does this, does he? Kendrick’s best work is when he slows down and lets us hear his complex thoughts and diction delivered via his raspy voice. How Much A Dollar Cost? is a prime example of this. Hard-hitting, beautiful, and paced perfectly. 

Sean, on the other hand, gets celebrated for his jiggy aesthetic and bangers. That’s fine, he’s getting his papers and that’s great, but knowing Hip Hop heads? They may just shy away from deep-dives into Sean’s catalogue and miss some of Sean’s relatable, clever social commentary – the exact thing that peer Vince Staples receives near endless praise for.

Sean is witty and smart

I’ll admit it, Sean is more fun to listen to than Kendrick even though Kendrick holds a special place in my ears. He’s fun. He’s funny, and even though I would like to term myself a “proper” Rap fan, Sean’s mix of sheer technical ability, diverse subject matter, ign’ance, and wit makes him both approachable and pleasing to analyse. Paradise is a Big Sean doing Rap better than most  underground backpack rappers, over a hot beat, with witticisms and sheer fuckery. It’s SO GOOD.

If you’re a fan of sheer musicianship, this assertion that Sean is overall better than Kendrick Lamar will grate. But really, I think as a rapper, Kendrick Lamar is no better than Sean. Kendrick says and does shocking things that set blogs alight. Control is an example. Take away all the name-dropping and you’re left with a pretty average verse. Holy Key? Get over a guy doing what Eminem did for 8 minutes on Campaign Speech (rhyme a whole lot without really saying much) and you’re left with the obvious question – what are you looking for? Someone making an impression on how he says things, or someone who make an impression based on what he says?

It’s all love, though… Right?

People say Sean took a few pot shots and K Dot on Bounce Back and No More Interviews. Well if he really was aiming at Kendrick – check Genius for the bars in question – I’m glad he did, in the spirit of competition. Sean’s biggest problem is that he’s always seemed content to play the background role. He shouldn’t. He’s a much, much better rapper than his label boss, Pusha T. He had the harder verses on both Control and Holy Key for me. He’s on par with or better than Kendrick Lamar as a rapper. Maybe not as a complete artist but when it comes down to bars? I’m betting my money on Sean Don to say more to me than TDE’s Rap hero.