Monday, June 30, 2014

"Sadboys2001", Yung Lean digital mixtape review

Yung Lean? Whodatbe?
Yung Lean (Doer) is a rapper from Europe; Swedish fellow. Lean has a large internet following, but has only been around for about a year. He dropped his first mixtape, which is the one that I am reviewing, only in 2013 (following with another within the same year). He's got a weird steez, and the best way to describe him would be to say that his nonsensical demeanor are intriguing, alluring, and sometimes off-putting. To many eyes, Yung Lean is a part of a trend where rappers/artists make music without serious intent, and are enjoyed primarily for comedic value. One might compare him to Lil B, but to say that they are lyrically similar would be horribly incorrect.
     I had heard his name in passing for a long time, but had dismissed him as just another typical mainstream rapper cat trying to make a quick penny with shitty rehashed themes (Which I had also made the mistake of doing to Lil B), but I will readily admit that I could not have been more wrong. After hearing a bit of this tape and learning a bit more about him, I decided that I'd have to give this tape a listen and then tell you guys about it. With that, I really just want to jump into the review.
The tape has two different covers, both of which I will post at the end of the review.
     There are three people who are to be accredited with the production of this album; Yung Lean, Yung Sherm, and Yung Gud. Together, these three individuals create the Sadboys :( It's all very confusing to learn at first, and it took me a bit to figure it all out. But basically, Yung Lean is the MC on this mixtape consistently (There is only one feature on the whole mixtape) and both Yung Sherm and Yung Gud are the producers for the whole thing. Just to clear that up.
     Yung Sherm and Gud are both awesome producers, and I am very sincere when I say that. It's also really weird - this album doesn't contain the regular boom-clap of mainstream hip-hop, nor the elaborate noise of underground, or really any other regular form of hip-hop. I've heard this compared to trip-hop and vaporwave, but the simplest way that I can describe it is that these beats are electronically-influenced. They ride on an air of subtle electronic ambiance that shines distinctly from what you usually hear, and while peculiar, are very skillfully crafted. Lots of credit towards Sherm and Gud, they really help to bring diversity to this work.
     Yung Lean is peculiar. To say that he is a good MC would not really be a lie, but he is so outside of the norm that what is typically expected in an MC does not apply to Lean. His themes are very out-of-the-norm, he might be rapping about fucking your bitch, but the very next verse is about pissing on the floor. Some of his themes are very stale, and some, even damaging (Like his homophobia), but he blends it with a combination of weird shit that keeps his steez fresh. Given how strange Lean's verses are, combined with good production from Gud and Sherm, it's natural to say that this mixtape is interesting at the very least.
     It's very experimental stuff, and if you like the sound of experimental electronic beats, you'll probably dig the instrumentals. Lean's verses are erratic, and would sound out of place anywhere else but here. I would not recommend this album to someone who wants to hear regular music with clear-cut production and an obvious goal.
     But is this mixtape good, overall? With great production that is severely out of the norm, and lyrical themes that might leave you scratching your head, I'd say that this album might be worth a listen if you're interested in the strange outer-bounds of rap/hip-hop. But this tape is absolutely not for everyone, and if you're just curious, Yung Lean has a multitude of videos online to choose from (YouTube). Personally, if you're curious and not sure if the tape is worth your time, I'd recommend Gatorade, Yoshi City (This track is not on this mixtape), and Ginseng Strip.
     That's all that there really is to say about this album. There's a lot more to say about Lean himself and what he has conjured, but I will leave that to you if you're really that interested. I wouldn't say personally that this album is amazing, but it was a really cool listen that kind of opened my eyes to a wider range of music. Music is whatever you want it to be, and this album really expresses that.

JRH gives "Sadboys2001" by Yung Lean a: 2.5/5

Strong points:
- Great production by Yung Sherm and Yung Gud
- Experimental sound that draws you in
- It's something fresh, something that hasn't quite been done before

Weak points:
- MCs of this kind have a habit of putting some people off just by being so distinctly strange, and it's a common phenomenon for people to be hella confused when it comes to music like this. I could see Yung Lean's fame confusing and aggravating any number of average listeners.
- Due to the strangeness of his lyrics, I could very well see him putting off any number of listeners who come across his work.

That is it ninjas. I hope that I've brought something new to you, something fresh and out of the norm, even if you're not too big on the content itself.

Lean has a penchant for including Japanese characters in his work. Strange, indeed...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Trail of Destruction", The Jokerr album review (Digital and physical)

"Trail of Destruction: A Chronicle of Epic Disses"
Well, at least I know what to expect. Wait, no. Actually, let's fix it.
"An Hour's Worth of Bitching: Actually, I'm Sorry I Said All That Shit, Guys"
Rearing its angry head originally in 2012, this album is effectively the Underground Shitstorm of it's time. Spanning (originally) fourteen tracks, this is more-or-less a platform created and used by The Jokerr to diss and upset many artists in the underground scene, some of whom are very well-known, others not-so-much.

*ADDITIONAL NOTE* CDs are as right now being sold with updated album art on the Jokerr's website. If you are interested in grabbing a physical copy then you can actually do that now, check it out:

     This album fucked The Jokerr up. He took a lot of shit for this, but he also gained a lot of publicity for it, which is probably a positive thing financially. After the damage had been done, he released a song entitled "Dead Horse" which is basically a song apologizing for how much of a dumbass he is and how sorry he is to some of the dudes he ragged on. Anyway, back to the CDs. Since they are now OOP, you can't find them being sold on The Jokerr's website which makes significantly harder to find. Near as I can tell, there are two printed versions that were released on physical copy. The "Peace and Happiness" version, and the "Broken Dreams" version. I got a version of the Peace and Happiness version on eBay - not too expensive, but I lost the bid on the Broken Dreams version. This is the only CD by The Jokerr that I have, but it's not even sold reliably, so finding a physical copy will require some legwork. But don't fear, intrepid traveler! There are still digital copies being sold by The Jokerr, which I had originally bought before I even knew that physical copies existed. It's a lot easier than finding a physical copy, and it'll keep you waiting less. So grab one if you don't feel like waiting for an undefined amount of time. As a last note, the digital copies come with the bonus track "Dead Horse" which is not included on either of the printed versions. With all that out of the way, I'm going to move on to the next section.

Again, there are two printed copies that I know of. I wouldn't be surprised if there were more, but these are the only ones I know about. The "Broken Dreams" version and the "Peace and Happiness" version. I have the latter, so that's the one I'm going to talk about.
In addition, the digital copies have their own art that I'll be posting below.
Peace and Happiness:
This version features a lot of beauty. There's flowers and a bright blue sky, with the words "Trail of Destruction" in nice cursive writing. On the back cover is the track listing, in the same stylized writing, along with a bit of licensing shit and something about "Corvix having a secret penguin sex fetish", whatever that means. The front cover is just a slip, and on the back of the slip is a little poem with a blue sky and sunflowers.
Lyrical law #2
"Carry yourself humbly,
Brag when you're spitting,
Rap how you act,
But never act how you rap."
I'm guessing that on different versions of the CD, Broken Dreams for example, there would be another lyrical law with a separate poem or some shit like that. But I don't know since I don't own it, and I might never own it. There's the CD art, just the title and more blue skies. Nothing in the CD rest - a little minimalistic. That's it for the art. Now to move on to what really matters.

     Speaking in terms of pure production, this album is actually pretty good. Great production, good beats, good lyricism (Most of the time), but not as well executed as it could have been. The idea of an album that is "An Epic Chronicle of Disses" sounds promising and refreshing considering that battle rapping is a dead art, and maybe The Jokerr is bringing something unique to the table, but unfortunately it isn't pulled off well enough to be truly great. My personal feelings of The Jokerr aside, I really have no idea what he was thinking when he dropped this. It brought him a lot of heat and fucked him up quite a bit. Then he tried to take the words out of the air, but it's like pouring out a bottle of shampoo and then trying to put it all back in with your hands. It ain't happenin'.
     On top of that, some of this shit is really petty. Often times The Jokerr runs out of legitimate disses for the artist he wants to crack on, so he goes middle school mode. He makes fun of physical appearances, says irrelevant homophobic shit, stuff like that. The idea of having a CD containing only disses seems promising, but Jokerr manages to mess it up with his childish attitude.
    The track list is okay, but it sometimes feels as though The Jokerr is just saying hateful shit but not actually directing it towards anyone in particular. Since he wanted this to be a full album, he just made a rambling track to fill in the gaps between actual disses to try and keep the listener entertained. It kind of works, but you can totally feel the fact that he's just trying to fill in gaps to keep the album length.
     On a more positive note, some of these disses are very heated and smash, aimed at specific people, and are very well-produced. Examples would be "Sidekick", "Permanent Enemy", and "The Maestro". I will also note at this point that there are two versions of the song "Sidekick", the studio version that has a really slanderous phone call between The Jokerr and Hopsin at the end (Which was torn down from YouTube), and then the current YouTube version that's up right now. These tracks are really good, but I also can't help feeling that they outshine other tracks on the list that are less extravagent. Regardless, while the gems outshine the other tracks, most of the CD is actually good. The beats bounce and hop all over the place, and there's a lot of variety lyrically and musically throughout the album. Some of the tracks are really orchestrated too, like "Sidekick" and "Dead Horse" which feature classical instruments that really define the songs that they're in.
      Again, "Dead Horse" is only on the digital version since the printed CDs came out before the track did (The new CDs actually have this track, as well as another bonus track). It's weird to hear Dead Horse after all the other tracks since it's very apologetic, when just a few minutes before he was dissing those same artists. While The Jokerr's demeanor leaves something to be desired, the CD is very much solid musically.. I have to mention the long monologues about his personal hatred for the artists he disses, where he goes on and on about the record labels are evil and the rappers are hypocrites. It's cute, but as a consumer who doesn't even listen to the artists he's flaming, I really do not give a single fuck. On top of that, it makes The Jokerr look like a douche because these monologues are just accusations and laments about things that have nothing to do with him artistically. It's just extra bullshit that makes The Jokerr look foolish.
     I'm going to get wrapping up on this and end with a few last things. You don't need this, especially if you're looking for the physical copy. It's too annoying to find and the digital copy is the definitive one, whereas the printed copies are more like drafts. If you feed off hatred, get this album. If you're not interested in dramatic bullshit between artists, save your money and just go look at the cool songs on YouTube. Most of the good songs on this album have videos up for them anyway. While Trail of Destruction is blessed with good production, Jokerr's petty attitude, inflated ego, and inane monologues drag the rest of the album down in the muck, creating a layer of grime that can't be scratched off even with the added Dead Horse track. There are really only a few songs I know I'm going to be coming back to, and this album doesn't make me feel any better about The Jokerr as an artist. With that final word, I conclude this review.

JRH gives "Trail of Destruction: A Chronicle of Epic Disses" by The Jokerr a: 2.3/5

Strong points:
- Strong production
- Few gems on the album that are really impressive
- Good lyricism, good singing
- Cool art for the printed version

Weak points:
- The fact that he took down the CDs and made modifications to the tracks just brings light to the fact that this album is tinged with bitter regret about the shit he said
-All of the filler breaks up the flow of the album
- While The Jokerr is a skilled rapper, his creativity on this album is often constrained to petty insults and quips
- Annoying egotistical monologues breaks up the flow of the album

That's it, ninjas. You don't need this shit, but there are some nice bits on it. Now for the art:

This is the version that I have. Notice that the quality isn't great - I couldn't find an actual scanned digital copy of the cover art. If a ninja can hook me up with a picture, I'll toss two whoops your way and give you some credit.

This the the Broken Dreams cover, present on the other pressed copy of this album.

This is the digital art that I got with the downloaded version of this album, from his website. Might have been his Bandcamp, I'm not entirely sure.

This is an alternate cover for the album. I'm not sure where it was used - promotional, printed copy, or otherwise. But it's out there, for whatever reason.

Another alternate cover for the album. Again I am not sure what it was used for exactly, but if anyone has details on it, I'll be happy to include some more detailed information on this review.

This is promotional art for the diss track "The Real One" aimed at Tha Joker; the tenth track on the CD and digital copy. It's not the cover art for any version of the album, but it was cool art so I figured I'd add it to the review.

Friday, June 13, 2014

"Eye of the Storm", Insane Clown Posse EP review

I'll start by saying I underestimated this EP hard. This is a classic case of "Don't judge a book by it's cover" - the art for this piece isn't very pretty, which immediately made me feel like the production would be a bit shoddy. It's instinct, but I was completely wrong. This EP is great. Released in 2007, this EP comes directly after The Tempest and before Bang! Pow! Boom! in 2009. I'm not sure how well it was received among the Juggalos, but apparently physical copies weren't distributed worldwide - only through Hatchetgear. That might speak of it's reception, but I couldn't quite tell you exactly. Now, I'm going to jump into the physical section before I continue.

This cover art catches the eye, but only to the extent that you'd see it and say "What the fuck is that?" Actually, the album art isn't that bad - I've seen worse for sure. But when you look at it, you don't quite think of a CD that was big or popular - it doesn't strike itself to the eye as something of amazing quality. I don't quite think it was supposed to be, either, this CD is just an EP with outtakes from The Tempest as well as some original content. It wasn't meant to be a bomb-ass no-holds barred kind of thing, but still, the art doesn't particularly grab me in a pleasing way.
     The art consists of a giant eyeball in one of those fortune teller machines. At the top of the stand are the words "Ask The Eye!", and beneath the eyeball are the words "Eye of the Storm". There's other stuff on the machine too, like ICP's name, but I'll be posting it below. On the back you have a track listing - it's an eight-track EP, along with licensing shit.
     I was excited when I noticed that the cover art was also a small booklet, but less so when I discovered it was just advertisements for other stuff ICP was doing at the time. An ad for JCW wrestling is on the left and there's information for the 2007 Hallowicked tour. There's production credits for the album on the back of the booklet, and then the CD on the right has a track listing around the rim along with the CD title and the group title. There's a red Hatchetman in the CD rest.

At first glance, this CD might not look like much at all. But this CD is so much more than first glance - it has really awesome production and a smash lineup of awesome tracks that'll keep you coming back to their wicked deliciousness. I can tell you that I was very entertained listening to this CD, and I got it on the cheap too. Insane Clown Posse EPs are strangely cheap on Amazon - so check it the fuck out! It's not like the tracks here were rejected from The Tempest because they sucked - they just didn't fit in with the rest of the CD, so they ended up here, and that is evident when you listen to this. These tracks are smash as hell, they vary in content, and carry with them entertaining cuts that hop and bounce all over the place. There are some tracks that have a rock/hard rock element to them, while others carry that nutty insane vibe that ICP is known for, but it all comes fluidly together on this CD and it's all good content.
     If you're a fan of Insane Clown Posse, I'd highly recommend this EP to you. All the tracks on this EP are good, and are filled with lots of gems that you'll be listening to long after you get the EP. I know for sure that this won't be my last encounter with this CD - I'll be bumping some of these pieces for a long time. This is just a dope CD through-and-through, and stands and an exemplar of ICP's work, especially regarding their EPs. The EP bumps, and I highly recommend this to any Juggalo - especially considering that you can find it on the cheap really easily. For the price tag - it's hella worth it, my ninja.

JRH gives "Eye of the Storm" by Insane Clown Posse a: 4/5!
(It bumps my ninja, it bumps!)

Strong points:
- Smash tracks!
- Stellar production
- ICP delivers on fun, crazy and theatrical tracks that don't fail to entertain
- I like the inclusion of different musical styles on this CD (Rock elements and rap elements)
- Lots of gems that give this CD a lasting value among the ninjas
- Cool to listen to track that were cut from The Tempest
- Fresh as fuck my ninja can I say any more?

Weak points:
- The album art made me underestimate this CD for sure, and is probably the biggest weak point in comparison to how good the rest of this CD is

Not terrible art, but not great art either...