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Review: Kota the Friend – EVERYTHING

Brooklyn-based independent Kota the Friend dropped his sophomore album, Everything, at midnight. Kota stirred something up in the hip hop community when he released his first full-length album, FOTO, a year ago. The album put him in the spotlight as someone to keep an eye on in the future. 

Kota teased the release of Everything with “B.Q.E,” which dropped on the 1st of this month, and features fellow Brooklyn native Joey Bada$$ and Dreamville contender, Bas. The single sparked heavy interest and anticipation among many for the project. Kota also released a video for a bonus verse he wrote for the single that truly reflects today’s cultural atmosphere.

The album begins with saxophone-laden  “Summerhouse,” which Kota teased then deleted on his Instagram prior to the release. The initial track prepares you for the rest of the project, letting us know exactly what we’re tuning in for, with pure-spirited lyrics like “Open your mind, turn on the vibe and get off the internet.” (For the sake of this review, please stay on the internet until you’ve finished reading.)

The 37-minute long LP seems to be a sequel to Kota’s 2018 EP, Anything, which carries a similar theme of stopping to smell the roses. Kota spoke about the project in an interview with UPROXX, saying, “…this album, I’m pretty much talking about all the things that I want, what means everything to me, what’s important to me, and what I put before everything else. We have other people on the album — fans, actors, and artists — just talking about what means everything to them on the interludes.” There are three interludes on the album, two of which feature the undoubtedly talented and introspective Lupita Nyong’o and triple-threat, Lakeith Stanfield. On one of those interludes,”Seven,” Kota speaks on the importance of separating the art from the artist, and staying humble in order to focus on what’s first and foremost for him– his son.

His son also makes a few appearances on the project, including the final and title track, where Kota makes a clever nod to his previous works: “And you free now, go fly fly, under palm trees sippin’ mai tais/ On Paloma beach, doing anythin’ in my photo book full of everything.”

Everything is a project with a purpose. Overall rating: 7.9/10
Favorite tracks: Summerhouse, Always Park, Volvo, Everything

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Review: Growing Teeth – WizTheMC

An excerpt from WizTheMC’s website describes the story of the first verse he ever wrote: “…So we downloaded a beat from youtube and wrote something down for a couple minutes, recorded it and it turnt out to be complete TRASH, but we felt like 2 chainz and Tyga and that’s all that matters. HOW YOU FEEL about it.” WizTheMC is the self-described “black Shawn Mendes with an edge,” a moniker with which I would have to agree.  

On Growing Teeth, Wiz’s gentle vocals and raps over beachy beats on tracks like “The One” and “Fear of Heights” set the tone for the project—this album may have been released in January, but if this isn’t a summer vibe, I truly don’t know what is. In fact, a common theme throughout the album is water, only lending to my assumption that this album was meant to be listened to in the dog days.

WizTheMC, or Sanele, was born in South Africa, raised in Germany and made the trek overseas to Canada in 2016 to follow his dream of making music. On “Take Me,” Wiz raps about the experience with witticism. In the first verse, he makes a nod to a mindset found to be fairly common among young artists without guidance, “I do what I can, and avoid what I can’t/ So it looks to everybody like I’m doing my best/ Posting old tracks while I’m still layin’ in bed/ ‘Cause in reality I’m rarely working, I’m just in my head/ Oh yeah, true, I rap, sometimes I just forget/ ‘Cause my mind is not where theirs is, I guess.”

The ten-track project was produced by Hugo, with the exception of “One Problem,” which was produced in collaboration with Wolfskind. The project itself seems a bit more grown than the title suggests; on tracks like “Blind” and “Demons,” the 21-year old addresses the difficulties of paving your own way, and maintaining individuality in life, in art, and in relationships. On “Demons,” Wiz sings about another common concern within the music industry, especially for up and coming artists growing their teeth, so to speak—clout, and those who chase it. It’s recommended to listen to this song in the car—don’t ask questions, just trust me. Sometimes, you just gotta let the music speak for itself.

Growing Teeth is short and sweet, and definitely worth a listen. HOW I FEEL about it: 8.1/10, I look forward to seeing how he grows as an artist in the future.

Read Sanele’s story on his website: https://www.wizthemc.com/story

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Review: Bishop Nehru – Nehruvia: My Disregarded Thoughts

Just a few months after his February release, Nehruvian Tuesdays: Vol, 1, 23 year old Bishop Nehru dropped his second project of the year, Nehruvia: My Disregarded Thoughts. Nehru speaks on the title of this project on his artist Bandcamp: “I knew I wanted to make a concept record about what it takes to free yourself from mental enslavement.”

The project starts off with a cryptic introduction, “Colder,” as he begins with spoken word, setting the scene for us: “It was a cold and breezy fall afternoon. The wind blew at a velocity that could make the sound of a screeching halt. As a man proceeds on his walk home, there’s an intuitive feeling following him, as a lion does an unaware gazelle. A tingling feeling that makes him feel as if he’s exactly where he needs to be.” Over an ominous beat, Nehru walks us through the complexities of his experience living as a black man in today’s “modern world,” barely scratching the surface of social commentary and armchair activism with bars like: “…it’s a lot of people don’t wanna open their mind to see/ They want me mad, ’cause cops drop us within a week/ But it’s nothin’ new, it’s just now you can send a tweet.”

The album has many valleys and swells, like our own disregarded thoughts, lending to the theme of the album. From DJ-Premier-produced “Too Lost” to reunion with old friend and mentor, MF DOOM, on “MEATHEAD,” it’s almost as if Nehru is telling his audience, “Don’t get too comfortable.”

 With reflective trap-style tracks like “In My Zone” and “EMPEROR,” which were most definitely meant to be heard in the whip, Nehru showcases his versatility—continuing the trend of sonic adaptability (a fancy way of saying he bodied these beats) with poetic vocals and prose over some might-y jazzy beats on “All of My Years” and “Me & My Thoughts.”

If I could, I would write a 3000 word review for this album, that’s how intricate it seems to me. I will say that this project was a grower for me. If I had written this review off my first listen: a solid 8/10. After a few more spins, you notice different things and appreciate different aspects, much like any other piece of music. In terms of understanding the themes in this project and to appreciate it for what it was meant to be, final overall rating: 8.9/10

Read more about Bishop Nehru’s album here: https://bishopnehru.bandcamp.com/album/nehruvia-my-disregarded-thoughts

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Review: Deante’ Hitchcock – BETTER

After hearing Deante’ Hitchcock’s first two singles from his debut with RCA Records, BETTER, I was optimistically anticipating this release. His first single from the project, the R&B-infused “How TF” with East Atlanta-raised 6lack, dropped in November of last year. Then, just a month before the album’s release, RCA dropped the second single– the high-powered underdog cash anthem, “I Got Money Now” with fast-talking wordsmith, JID. The release of this particular single couldn’t have come at a more perfect time; in the same week, the US government began rolling out its first round of stimulus checks, and it seemed people all over were singing, “I was having withdrawals, now I’m at the bank, making deposits.” (Maybe that was just me?)

Fast forward to this past Wednesday, the album’s official release on all platforms. The project starts off strong with “I Remember,” no doubt setting the tone for the rest of the album. The track order was a little disappointing; Hitchcock comes in heavy with every feature on the album in the first half. Maybe it’s personal preference, but spreading the features out could’ve sent this album over the edge to 8/10. I’d say the album is exactly what you’d expect from a gritty Atlanta rapper, but the project is multi-faceted with heartfelt lyrical tracks like “Growing Up/Mother God” intertwined with sample-rich ear-candy like “Circles.”

Hitchcock wraps the album up with “Angels,” which is one of the strongest tracks on the project, with a beat switch halfway through the song that begs you to say “Hold on, run that shit back.”

All in all, this project is worth a listen, or two, or three. Overall rating: 7.8/10

Deante Hitchcock – BETTER album credits