Music, Tape Swap

Tape Swap: July 2014, Part 1

Common – Nobody’s Smiling

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If you’re a fan of Common, you knew coming in that Nobody’s Smiling probably wouldn’t be his best work. If you haven’t listened to Common before, Nobody Smiling isn’t the place to start. The Chicago MC has 2 or 3 “classic” albums under his belt, depending on who you ask. His music usually revolves around his conscious lyrics, and he’s been rapping for a minute now. But when you’ve been in the game for awhile, what’s there left to say? Make no mistake, Common still has juice in the tank, but the album’s serious tone comes off a little stale at times. While this album isn’t bad, its main fault is not showcasing any artistic development from Common. The best tracks on Nobody’s Smiling are ones with young rappers like Lil Herb, Dreezy, and Vince Staples, who tend to provide current and fresh perspectives on the album’s themes. Common tries to do it all on this album, and he hits about as often as he misses. Most of the album’s urgent-sounding tracks feature the worst production, while some of the more upbeat cuts have the best. In sacrificing beats for lyrics, the tracks here can become boring or uneasy on the ears. Nobody’s Smiling does have highs, but it seems that every high comes with a low. – Malcolm Baum

Gucci Mane – Trap House 4

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In August of last year, Gucci Mane released 3 solid mixtapes to kick off his WW3 series. 2013 was a prolific year for Guwop, as he proved he is an absolute workhorse and released 12 mixtapes, most of which were consistently good, or at least not bad. Yet there were some questions leading up to the release of Trap House 4, as this year’s installments of WW3 have featured very little rapping from Gucci himself. Guwop is also currently incarcerated until 2016, so one has to ask: can he still keep up the pace from prison? Well if Trap House 4 says anything, it says don’t doubt the Trap God.

Trap House 4 is unlike any other Gucci project released this year in that it truly feels like a solo effort. As mentioned earlier, this year’s WW3 installments barely featured any Gucci (Brick Factory 1 gave more time to other artists). TH4 is mostly Gucci: there are only features on 4 of the 19 total tracks. For the first time in a minute, Gucci proves that he can carry a project by himself. This album is filled with anthems like “Top In The Trash,” “Fuck Niggas,” and “Jugg House.” “Top In The Trash” might be one of Gucci’s catchiest and most lyrically-entertaining songs in several years, with lyrics like “Got a college girl, just spoken words / she think she is a poet / When I smash, just spoken words / I gotta keep her focused.” Chief Keef comes through with a clumsy and entertaining verse on the back end of the track, where he talks about how he hurt his thumb counting all his money.

If you were disappointed by WW3, Trap House 4 will help you forget. This project is filled with slapper after grimy slapper, with a couple of autotune ballads thrown in the mix. My only complaint is that a couple tracks in the middle of the album see Gucci using a boring whisper flow that he doesn’t really pull off. For the most part, however, it’s a very consistent and worthy follow-up to Trap House 3, one of Gucci’s best tapes last year. – Malcolm Baum

Shlohmo & Jeremih – No More EP

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It’s been over a year since this unlikely duo released the sexually-overwhelming track “Bo Beep (Do U Right).” Jeremih was a one-hit wonder to most until the release of his Late Nights tape in 2012, where he proved an entertaining and catchy R&B singer. The tape was good, but definitely dissimilar from Shlohmo’s wonky and ambient sound.  With the release of “Bo Beep” and the more recent title track, the hype for this EP has been through the roof. The internet went nuts when it finally dropped on July 17th, and rightfully so.

No More is straight sexual fire. There’s no club anthems or passionate songs about struggle or family; it’s all about the sex jams. Jeremih doesn’t bring anything new to the table lyrically, but if that bothers you, you’re missing the point completely. As expected, Shlohmo delivers behind the boards with his dark and heavy production, which doesn’t emulate traditional R&B instrumentals by any means. This EP sounds very similar to Shlohmo’s Laid Out, with its moody vocal samples and bass lines. The only thing that breaks the consistency of No More is Chance The Rapper’s goofy verse on “The End,” a bad way to finish the project. Otherwise, No More is a great EP that I plan on listening to many more times. – Malcolm Baum

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