MUSIC: Hip Hop Album Show Down - Yeezus Vs Born Sinner Vs Watching Movies With The Sound Off
Another Kanye West album and another chart showdown on the horizon. It seems that the industry is hell bent on painting Yeezy as this conflict seeking artist who can’t let an album release go by without going in to full on battle. This year his opponents come in the form of relative newbie’s J Cole and Mac Miller. Inevitably we had to take a look at what exactly is on offer and give you the best picture on where to spend your hard earned cash! Maybe Hip Hop isn't dead after all...
Kanye West- Yeezus
Album No: 6
Last Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Released Nov, 22, 2010) first week sales 496,000. Debuted at Number 1. Sold over 1.3 Million units in the US (Platinum). 3 Grammy awards including Rap Album of the Year.
The Buzz: With No single at radio, no videos online or in rotation on TV and no actual album artwork Kanye is definitely taking the minimalistic approach. With a campaign built around one SNL performance and worldwide projections of the video for the non-single “New Slaves” on the sides of buildings it’s the most non-conventional start to a project we’ve seen from ‘Ye, hell- from anyone in a long while! There were rumours of Daft Punk collabs, Frank Ocean features and appearances from Chicago natives, Chief Keef and Kid Kudi, some of which were confirmed at Kanye’s listening party in new York last week. It’s been hard for folk to make predictions sales wise- but 500,000 seems to be a number they’re talking about. All this with next to no money spent on marketing- Congrats Def Jam!
The Music: Kanye is back! Rejoice! But you will find not find one song to reflect that happiness trust me. Long gone is the polo wearing Mr. West who sampled big 70's records (well, apart from album closer- Bound). This new guy has been listening to Kraftwerk, recruited some rock sounding drums and distorted his vocals- and not just with the auto tune we found on 808's and Heartbreak. I've heard a lot of people say the album sounds angry, but I think that's a lazy adjective. The album sounds rebellious- harsh almost. It sounds downtown, the kind of downtown Miguel likes to talk about in interviews. Now, we all know Kanye hasn't been hanging with drugged up hipsters but it goes without saying that a producer as talented as Kanye can almost convince you otherwise. I'll admit it does seem weird hearing him over beats so electronic and sparse, but you can't knock his growth. He's one of few artists who aren't afraid to go off track and give you something you weren't expecting.
Highlights: Guilt Trip, Blood On Leaves I'm In It
J. Cole- Born Sinner
Album No: 2
Last Album: Cole World: The Sideline Story (Released September 27, 2011) first week sales 218,000. Debuted at number 1 and has sold over 600,000 copies in the US (Gold)
The Buzz: Clearly not shy of conflict J. Cole moved the release date of his album up a week to rival Yeezus. J has said that he is so proud of the body of work he has created, that he has all the confidence in the world going up against one of his idols. With the various facts leaking prior to release the biggest buzz came from the track entitled "Let Nas Down". A tale of a call he got from producer No ID after the release of the single "Work Out" it set the scene for what people were expecting to be a very candid album, only building on his reputation as one of the new generation of capable lyricists. The album has of course been preceded by the dark but smooth hit "Power Trip" featuring man of the moment Miguel and the RnB tag team trend has been continued with news of a TLC collab.
The Music: Jermaine really has delivered a solid piece of work. the album feels familiar and welcoming- which could be to do with the fact that not yet has Jermaine managed to really distinguish himself "Sound" wise from his Roc family (See Jay-Z and Kanye). A Lot of the beats , which Cole produced himself, you can easily hear his two big brothers on. But when he does manage to do is make use of his full sounding tone and flow. He really has a voice that commands attention and is easy to listen to. He's sincere lyrically, especially on the jazz tinged cut "Let Nas Down". I don't think this is the album that's going to have people hailing him a great just yet, but it does put him in the running. With Kendrick Lamar coming out swinging earlier this year- Born Sinner does a tremendous job at putting Cole right back in the running. It may not have the epically cohesive vibe that Kendrick's LP did, but it kinda leaves you wondering just how dangerous Cole could be in these charts should he chose to create his own musical movie.
Highlights: Let Nas Down, Born Sinner, Villuminati
Mac Miller- Watching Movies With The Sound Off
Album No: 2
Last Album: Blue Slide Park (Released Nov 08, 2011) first week sales 145,000. Debuted at Number 1. Sold over 350,000 units in the US
The Buzz: So Buzz for this has mainly been centred around Mac as the underdog in this fight. The youngest contender, with least critical acclaim has however, made it very clear that being great is something he is working towards. An effort that is clearly noted in his improvements both sonically and lyrically. Fans of Back Pack Rap seem to be pretty excited for the projects list of noteworthy production partners in the shape of Flying Lotus, Pharrell Williams and Odd Futures Earl Sweatshirt. Not to mention that this is all coming from a project released independently!
The Music: I can't pretend that I "get" what Mac is about. Production wise I always seem a little lost when it comes to these kind of projects. Maybe I'm not cool enough or maybe I don't smoke enough weed, but I can say that after listening to the album and hearing Mac's previous release, there has been a definite growth. Sonically, there's a real theme here. He's honing in on a sound that he clearly loves and wants to explore. And lyrically there have been definite improvements. However, it does sound like a lot of the flows on the album fall back on clichéd cadences which can only be put down to experience. Either way, at 21 and with no major label behind him it's clear he is definitely not to be played with!
Highlights: Avian, Matches, Watching Movies
So as much as it may break my heart to admit, Yeezus isn't my favourite album this week. Born Sinner just has a soul to it that I appreciate- and a soul I'm sure will see this album set J.Cole up for greater things with the next LP. Saying that, the hype Kanye has managed to build (not to mention his recent addition to team KimYe) will ensure that he ends up at the top of the heap. It will definitely be interesting to see if Kanye can maintain sales without the conventional machine of videos and radio play. Either way, for me- Cole takes the Gold, Yeezy the Silver and Miller walks away with a commendable Bronze.