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Year End Album Reviews 2013: Part I

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Well, the year’s almost over, so I’m gonna do something new. I’ll be reviewing most of the big albums this year and give my honest opinion. Now, let me remind you that I won’t be reviewing EVERY album, just the major ones that matter the most. And I’m only reviewing full-length studio LPs; no EPs, no mixtapes, no compilations, no remix albums, no re-releases, etc. Now 2013 is full of records from big names like Kanye West, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Daft Punk, Eminem, J Cole, Drake, Robin Thicke, and more. Some were great, others were trash, some were okay, and others were disappointing, just like every other year. A few of these records will be remembered decades later while others will be forgotten through time. Now let me just say that everything I’ll be saying about these releases are all my opinion and I’ll try to be as unbiased as possible (keyword TRY). You have a right to agree or disagree with me. I’m not trying to tell you what to listen to and what not to listen to, that’s all up to you. The thing about music is that it’s a subjective thing; not everyone is gonna like the same type of music and that’s fine. If we all liked the same things, the world would be boring. If you like or dislike any of these records, cool. Like whatever you wanna like, hate whatever you wanna hate. Now, unlike my Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 Review, I’ll be rating these albums using the letter grade system. Now that you know what’s up. let’s start the reviews. These are albums released from January to June of 2013.

Long.Live.A$AP

A$AP Rocky

Release Date: January 15

This is A$AP Rocky’s debut album and it’s the first big release of the year. It went to #1 on the Billboard charts, despite leaking a month before. So did A$AP do a good first impression? Sort of. There are some good songs here like the title track, Goldie, 1 Train. and Wild For The Night, but there’s also some tracks that range from okay to straight up terrible, like Fuckin’ Problems, which is one of the worst songs on this entire album (GOD, I hate that fucking song). A$AP’s not a lyrical rapper, but he does have a dope flow and he does have a good ear for beats. The production is very atmospheric, it feels like you’re traveling through outer space on some of these songs. There is, of course, the Houston-trap inspired sound here, as well. Some of the guest features do their thing while others feel like dead weight who don’t contribute anything to the record. So, overall, Long.Live.A$AP is an okay record. There’s some filler tracks on here that could’ve been cut out and replaced with something better. Oh, well. I give Long.Live.A$AP a C. I recommend checking this out. Just be prepared to skip a bunch of tracks.

The 20/20 Experience

Justin Timberlake

Release Date: March 15

Ah, yes. Now we’ve reached the big one; The 20/20 Experience. JT’s first album since FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006. It’s currently the highest selling album of the entire year, with US sales of up to 2 million. And it’s safe to say that this is one of the best albums of the year. The songs are well-written; all of the songs are about romance, but I could stomach them easily here. And the production is stellar, done by JT, partner-in-crime Timbaland, J-Roc, and Rob Knox. The sound is very 70s R&B/funk inspired, like something either Michael Jackson or Prince would’ve made. And, of course, there’s the big hits like Suit & Tie, featuring Jay Z, and Mirrors. There hasn’t been a pop album like this that sets the bar high when it comes to quality pop music since Adele’s 21 album. Don’t be surprised if JT wins a bunch of Grammys with this shit. I give it a solid A. I definitely recommend this album if you like good pop music.

I Am Not A Human Being II

Lil Wayne

Release Date: March 22

After teasing the public about his retirement after the disappointingly terrible Tha Carter IV, Lil Wayne is back (unfortunately for us) with another album, the sequel to 2010’s I Am Not A Human Being. And guess what? Just like the one that proceeded it, this album sucks badly. It’s just one big colossal mess (though not as big as a mess as some other releases this year). Let me also tell you that Wayne has been in the game since the 90s, so, at this point, he is a veteran of the game. He can basically do whatever he wants right now. But that doesn’t justify making a bad record, which this is. It starts off with an elaborate piano piece and I’ll admit that this intro is actually pretty nice. The piano work was actually done by Eric Lewis, a very famous jazz pianist whose unconventional style of playing has earned him a lot of praise and opportunity to work with artists like Sting, The Roots, and Natalie Cole. If anything, this is the best way to start any album. But then that changes when Wayne starts rapping and this is the first thing he says.

I’m in the crib butt naked bitch
She said my dick could be the next black president

That went downhill quickly, didn’t it? But it gets worse as you listen to the rest of the album. There’s several references to money, sex, drugs, skateboarding, and the cringe-worthy Auto-Tune pops up every now and then. The punchlines and metaphors get worse and worse as you proceed through this thing. The production’s very sloppy and out of place and the guest features do nothing to help the album. Speaking of guest features, you wanna know some of the guest features on this album? Juicy J, Gunplay, 2 Chainz, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Soulja Boy. Yep, you heard me right. SOULJA BOY, the cancerous piece of the Devil’s ass hairs behind some of the shittiest records from 2007-2010. What dumpster of irrelevance did Wayne and his crew dig this turd-face out of? Anyways, this is an album made by a man who’s clearly running out of creativity and things to say, so he’s basically re-hashing older material in the hopes of getting people to buy his shit and, unfortunately, it worked since the album went gold. Some Wayne fans argue that this album sounds like he’s returning to the old Tha Carter II/mixtape Weezy. Hearing this pile of crap, I didn’t find ONE trace of that. All I found was a washed-up rapper who can’t even make good records anymore and is just riding off of the hype of his name. There’s nothing that can help redeem this album from being crap, not even the piano intro. So, this gets a big fat F. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.

Paramore

Paramore

Release Date: April 5

I’ve already stated that I like Paramore’s music in the past, so when I heard that they’re working on another album, I had to check it out. And I liked what I heard. I’ll admit I haven’t heard a full Paramore album in its entirety until this one. But if I have to guess it based off what I heard on their latest record, this is Paramore’s best. It has great catchy songs, the lyrics are written well, and the production is executed perfectly by Justin Medal-Johnsen, who has produced for Neon Trees and M83. Haley Williams once again does her thing as a singer; she definitely knows how to belt out those powerful notes outta that tiny body. Some of my favorite songs are Grow Up, Ain’t It Fun, Part II, Last Hope, Be Alone and Future. I’ve stated in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 Review that I wasn’t a big fan of their single Still Into You. It’s not a bad song, but I’m not gonna skip other tracks on the entire album just to listen to that song. And their other single, Now, I found it to be too generic, which is something I will say about a few of the other songs on this record. But overall, Paramore’s self-titled fourth album is a great rock record. I give it a B. I highly recommend it.

Hotel California

Tyga

Release Date: April 9

I’m shaking my head in disappointment by this right now. Lemme tell you why. This is Tyga’s third studio album (his second one signed to Young Money) and it’s called Hotel California. Huh. Doesn’t that title sound familiar to you? Isn’t there some other album that had the same title? Let’s see, hmm… what was that album? OH!! Now I know. THIS one.

YOU TOOK THE FUCKING TITLE FROM THIS CLASSIC RECORD, YOU ASS MONKEY!!

Okay, let’s set aside the fact that this nigga took the title of his album from a classic Eagles album and focus on how it holds up on its own. Hint, it doesn’t; it is crap. The rapping is terrible, the lyrics are dumb as hell, and the production is generic pop rap. I’m not kidding, this shit is mainstream-pandering crap. Does anyone notice that Tyga sounds a little too much like Lil Wayne? That’s probably why he and this album are wack, because they try too hard to sound like Wayne. It’s bad enough having Nicki Minaj, Drake, and other Young Money artists trying to sound like Wayne. Also, aside from Jadakiss, who’s just a waste of a good verse, none of the guest features are impressive, even The Game sucked on here. This whole album is just a waste of time and studio money and I’m actually glad people caught on to it seeing that it flopped harder than the previous album (it doesn’t help that there wasn’t a hit song like Rack City to help its sales). The fact that this piece of shit holds the same title as the 1976 Eagles record makes me sick to my stomach. What’s next, a Miley Cyrus album titled Bad or Thriller? A Justin Bieber album titled What’s Going On or Hear My Dear? A 2 Chainz album called Dark Side Of The Moon or The Wall? A Nicki Minaj album called Me Against The World or All Eyez On Me? I could keep going. Fuck this album; it gets a F. I’d stay away from this pile of audio feces if I were you and go check out the Eagles’ Hotel California instead. That album is a classic with great songwriting, production, and records that are remembered years later.

Save Rock & Roll

Fall Out Boy

Release Date: April 12

Fall Out Boy’s first album in five years, it’s been a long time since these guys were huge. So let me say that I’m not a big Fall Out Boy fan. I never was interested in their music. But then I heard a lot of positive feedback about their latest album to check it out and it’s alright. It’s not great, but it’s cool. There are some catchy songs on here, hell, I dig the first single, My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark [Light Em Up] (by the way, isn’t that one of the dumbest song titles you’ve ever heard?), but nothing that spectacular. Patrick Stump is basically the male version of Christina Aguilera, a good singer but too over-dramatic with the vocal delivery. Stump’s over-done singing ruins some  of the songs for me. And there’s guest features from Foxes, Big Sean (… o-kay… ), Courtney Love’s crazy ass, and Elton John. Guess who doesn’t fit in that line-up? Big Sean. Seriously, he sounds out of place when doing rock music. Some rappers don’t sound good over rock beats. Anyways, the rest of the guests do their thing on here. So, overall, this album is okay. I give it a C. If you’re a Fall Out Boy, I’d recommend this album for you. If not, at least check it out.

Indicud

Kid Cudi

Release Date: April 16

This is Kid Cudi’s third studio album and his last album while being signed to GOOD Music. And it’s a pretty solid album, though not as great as Man On The Moon 1 and 2. With Indicud, Cudi handles all of the production and you can tell that he’s sort of an amateur at it. The production is pretty much hit and miss. Some of the tracks sound sloppy and probably needs more work on them while others are pretty cool. We all know Kid Cudi’s not a great lyricist and he’s not a great singer, but he makes up for it in how delivers it emotionally and with passion. The guest features delivers as well, like Kendrick Lamar, HAIM, A$AP Rocky, and RZA. Some of the best tracks on here include King Wizard, Solo Dolo, Part II, Beez, and Brothers. This album, overall, is a good effort, but it’s not without its flaws. Hopefully, with future projects, Cudi can improve his producing skills and make something a little better. I’m definitely looking forward to Man On The Moon 3. So I give Indicud a solid C. It’s worth checking out.

Reincarnated

Snoop Lion

Release Date: April 23

Snoop’s first attempt at doing a reggae album. When I first heard that he was gonna make reggae music, I had two thoughts: “How much weed did this nigga smoke that made him want to do this?” and “It sort of makes sense since he loves weed.” I was very curious to hear him do reggae. We all love Snoop, we do. But this album is not that good. I’m sorry. I get what he’s trying to do with here, trying to make music about love, peace, and unity and no violence (even though this is coming from a guy who made gangsta rap records about killing people in the past) and I commend that, but the resulting product is one big mess with very little understanding of reggae. Before I get to the problems, I wanna talk about the good stuff; I like the overall message, the production on some the songs are nice, they definitely capture that Caribbean vibe, and there’s actual reggae artists featured on here. Now to the problems. Why is Snoop singing in a fake Jamaican accent? I get that you’re a reborn Rastafarian, but you’re not even Jamaican. Stop with the accent and use your regular voice. Also, there’s features from non-reggae artists who don’t fit. WHY?! Why is Drake, Miley Cyrus, Chris Brown, and the poor man’s Rihanna (Rita Ora, though the same could be said about Miley) on a FUCKING REGGAE ALBUM?! And the songs are generic as hell; some of these are just rap/pop songs disguised as reggae. While there are good songs on here like Rebel Way, Here Comes The King, Tired Of Running, and Harder Times, the rest of the songs on here are either forgettable or pure crap. This is a disappointing release, especially one from a legend who’s been in the game for 20 plus years and released Doggystyle, one of the best debut albums of all time. This gets a dismal D. Aside from a few songs that you can check out on YouTube, I wouldn’t recommend this album to anyone at all, whether they’re a reggae fan or not. If you want good reggae, go check out records from Beres Hammond, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, and, of course, the man and legend himself, Bob Marley.

#willpower

will.i.am

Release Date: April 19

You know what’s funny? This is will.i.am’s fourth solo album. If you didn’t know that he actually released three other albums, I don’t blame you. And believe me, you’re not missing out on anything because will.i.am songs are nothing but Black Eyed Peas rejects. Anyways, the title of this album is #willpower (yes, hashtag included) and it’s nothing but a bunch of radio singles and club trash. will.i.am uses more Auto-Tune than T-Pain and Future combined. The Auto-Tune here is so abused, that I’m amazed no one called the police on him. He also sucks as a rapper. Look at these lyrics that’d make French Montana look like Talib Kweli.

They call me will-A
Stay so cool, I’m chilli
I done made that maley
On my way to that valet
Used to have a piggy bank,
But now I got that bigger bank
Who who cares what the haters say
They hate on me cause we doing what they can’t

Come on. This is elementary-type rhymes. This guy is the epitome of a pretentious douchebag and it shows a lot on every song he does. Another thing, there’s a lot of cock-teases on here. Just when you think a song is gonna be good, will.i.am comes in and fucks it up. Some of the production’s cool, but it’s all the same EDM-infected crap. None of the songs are good, they only serve as background music in the club when you’re inebriated to the point where you can’t even stand still. Hashtag shitty album (#shittyalbum). This gets an F. Stay the fuck away from this album.

Demi

Demi Lovato

Release Date: May 10

Disney kid Demi Lovato has been through a lot. Going through bipolar disease, bulimia, and other personal issues, she bounced back with new music and a new job as a judge for X-Factor. Her new album, Demi, is a solid release. Not a great album, but a good one. As a singer, Demi is one of the few Disney kids who can actually SING and she has one hell of a voice. It’s just a matter of using it correctly. This is a typical pop album. The production is hit and miss. You wanna know something? The best songs on this entire album are actually the slower songs. Yeah. The mid-tempo songs are cool, but the up-beat songs are very forgettable. Demi does well doing pop-rock songs as opposed to the electro-pop ones. Just my opinion. So, yeah. This is a cool pop album. Not the best, but I’d rather listen to this as opposed to other crap that’s out there. I give it a solid B. I definitely recommend this album to anyone looking for a good pop record.

Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire Weekend

Release Date: May 14

The third studio album from indie-rock band Vampire Weekend, this is possibly their best work to date. Their previous two albums were cool, but this one, they stepped it up. The production’s very epic, venturing into different musical territory. Well-written lyrics and  excellent production work. There’s definitely a lot of highlights on here like Diane Young, Unbelievers, and Ya Hey. Vampire Weekend are one of those acts who deserves more recognition than they got because they are talented. No doubt that this is one of the best quality albums of 2013. I give this a solid A. It’s definitely worth checking out if you want to hear a good rock record as of recent.

Excuse My French

French Montana

Release Date: May 21

Oh, boy. Excuse My French, the debut album from French Montana. This shit got pushed back constantly and then it was released. And let me be the one to tell you that this album was shit. Fuck being politically correct, this is one of the worst hip-hop albums released this year and I stand behind that statement. Why? Just listen to the fucking thing. French raps like he dropped out of grade school, his HAAA ad-lib that he got from Kanye and the Ying Yang Twins is beyond annoying, the production is generic mainstream rap, and, oh yeah, there’s TOO MANY GUEST FEATURES. Out of 14 tracks (17 if you include the deluxe edition), only four songs have no features. The shit looks like a compilation album. It’s a problem when you’re a music artist and you have too many guest features on your shit because it signifies to the listener that you can’t carry a particular project on your own. I understand that guest features are a necessity when it comes to making albums, but they shouldn’t distract from the artist themselves. This album is god-awful and I’m glad that it flopped because people are starting to realize how bad it is and, hopefully, this will be a sign to the record labels that pieces of shit like this should not and will not be tolerated within hip-hop and they’ll stop signing these shitty hot-at-the-moment rappers, which I don’t think will happen anytime soon, seeing that these labels will continue signing these shitty acts for a quick buck. Excuse My French gets a big fat F. Unless you don’t want any brain cells in your head alive, I don’t recommend checking this out; go listen to something with actual substance instead.

Random Access Memories

Daft Punk

Release Date: May 17

FUCK YES. We’ve now reached another big one, Random Access Memories, Daft Punk’s latest album. This is their most successful album to date, debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts. And I’m gonna tell you, this is a great fucking album. Live instrumentation is incorporated, making it into a disco/funk album. Lyrically, it’s not impressive, but it’s a dance album, lyrics aren’t that important. At least they don’t come off as douchebags like will.i.am. Daft Punk has worked with a lot of musicians on this shit, like Nile Rodgers, Pharrell, Paul Williams, Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas, and more. Of course, we all know about their huge hit single, Get Lucky, which is one of the best songs of the entire year. This whole project is a departure from their previous works and some fans weren’t happy about that. They’re used to the group’s older house music and that’s all they want from them. If those people can set their fanboy frustrations aside, then they can see how brilliant this album is. It gets a perfect A. If you don’t like disco, don’t listen to this album, but if you do like disco, then I recommend checking this album out.

IV Play

The-Dream

Release Date: May 28

IV Play is the fifth studio album from Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter/producer The-Dream. He’s had one solid career, writing and producing songs for many big name artists and putting out his own material. So how does this release hold up? It’s okay. Not my favorite release, but it’s cool. It’s your typical R&B album with themes of love and sex with a bunch of rap features, some of them VERY unnecessary. The production’s solid, fitting the mood of each song. Some of the best tracks include Equestrian, Where Have You Been, Slow Down, Loving You/Crazy, New Orleans, and others. Another thing, there’s no subtlety on this album at all. Ever since R Kelly came out, most R&B artists didn’t try to hide what they say under subtle messages. My problem with the album is that it sounds like every other R&B album out now, some of the rap features are very unnecessary like I said earlier, and there’s some use of Auto-Tune on some songs which annoy me. So, overall, it’s an okay album. I give it a C. If you’re looking for a solid R&B album, then you might enjoy this record.

Born Sinner

J Cole

Release Date: June 14

Born Sinner. J Cole’s sophomore effort and a possible modern day classic. This is one of those cases where the second album is actually better than the first. Now don’t get me wrong. Cole World: The Sideline Story is a solid debut album, but it had flaws that prevented it from being a possible classic debut. With Born Sinner, Cole fixed most of the problems with the first and stepped up his game. Just like every other project he does, Cole handles all of the production with assistance from a couple of others and it fits the mood of the album’s tracks. Lyrically, dude spits that fire. The guest features are kept to a minimum, with appearances from Miguel, Amber Coffman, Kendrick Lamar, TLC, James Fauntleroy, 50 Cent, Bas and Jhené Aiko, and they all do their thing. You listen to Born Sinner and you can hear the hunger in Cole’s voice and you can tell he doesn’t want to be just a second-tier rapper. This is one of the best releases of 2013 in hip-hop and music overall. Aside from a few corny punchlines, unnecessary singing, no Kendrick rap verse, and a lot of songs about women, I have no problems with this album. This gets a solid A. I highly recommend this album to anyone looking for a great release.

Watching Movies with the Sound Off

Mac Miller

Release Date: June 14

Mac Miller, the white rapper niggas love to hate and I never understood that. I mean, Mac ain’t the best rapper, but he’s not terrible. He’s got skills as a rapper and this album proves it. Watching Movies with the Sound Off is a good album. Just like with J Cole, this is another situation where the sophomore album is better than the debut. With this album, Mac Miller steps up his game as a rapper and he actually handles some of the production. There’s a bunch of introspective tracks and there’s the songs about money, drugs, and women. The production is very nice, reminiscent of psychedelia music, making it feels like you’re really high. The guest features do pretty well, with appearances from Action Bronson, Jay Electronica, TDE’s Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q, and Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler the Creator. You wanna know something crazy? The people who hated Mac Miller in the past actually admitted to liking this album. When you release a record that turns haters into fans, you’re doing something right. So, yeah. Watching Movies with the Sound Off gets a B. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Yeezus

Kanye West

Release Date: June 18

Ah, yes. Yeezus. The most polarizing album of the year. Despite universal acclaim from critics, fans were split in the middle about it. Some say it was the best album ever, others say it was the worst. Me, at first, I was with the people who said it was the worst. But after another listen, I’m somewhere in the middle closer to the people that didn’t like it. Though not entirely terrible, I do consider Yeezus Kanye’s worst album to date (not counting Cruel Summer). There are good songs on here like Black Skinhead, New Slaves, and Bound 2, which is the best song on this entire album (seriously, check out the song, but don’t watch the video; it’s terrible). However, the rest of the songs are very forgettable and are below Kanye’s standards. The production on some songs are cool, but it’s all over the place, with a lot of industrial and electronic influences. I will say that I commend Kanye for trying to do something different like he always does and I wouldn’t be surprised if artists in the future tried to re-create the sound of Yeezus. The mixing is terrible, however; the entire thing sounds like it was done by someone with Parkinson’s Syndrome (to anyone who actually has Parkinson’s, I apologize if I offended you). Yeezus, for the most part, lacks the passion that past Kanye albums had, which is why I can’t get into it. For an artist like Yeezy, this album feels like a downgrade. I give this a C. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, but if you wanna check it out, then check it out. But I promise you won’t like every song.

The Gifted

Wale

Release Date: June 24

I’m not a fan of MMG and, to be honest, I don’t care about them. But I’m gonna go ahead and review this recent album from Wale, The Gifted. Now Wale’s not the worst rapper out there. Hell, out of that whole MMG crew, he’s actually the best lyricist and he is the only one outta that label outside of Rick Ross whose had any success. But he’s just so fucking boring. Seriously. He’s the most bland rapper out there. Nothing he says is interesting, he doesn’t have his own style, shit, he doesn’t even know what kind of artist he wants to be. One minute, he’s this poetic guy. The next, he’s making Rick Ross-type ratchet/trap songs. And the next, he’s this wannabe ladies’ man. MAKE A FUCKING CHOICE OF WHO YOU WANNA BE, DAMN IT!! Now some of you would argue that Tupac acted the same way, but Pac was more believable and he had passion unlike any individual, something that can’t be said about Wale. Anyways, so how is this album? Answer: it’s mediocre with a few highlights. The production’s cool, though it sounds too R&B-ish and sounds like Rick Ross rejects. There’s too many guest features and the only ones who actually do something incredible is Sam Dew in LoveHateThing, Cee-Lo on Gullible, and Lyfe Jennings on Bricks, Everyone else sucked but the one person who brings this entire record down is Wale himself. There’s so much blandness here, I’d rather look at dust. And, lyrically, there’s nothing that great being said. All of the songs are about the same topics while bringing nothing new to the table. So, yeah. That was The Gifted, or as I’d like to call it, The Bland or The Bored. This gets a D. I don’t recommend this to anyone. Go check out some other albums because this one is just a waste of time.

So that was Part I of the Year End Album Reviews. I’ll post Part II, where I’ll review albums released from July to December of 2013, on either December 14 or 15. Disagree with what I’ve said about these releases? Then let me know what you think about them, whether you love them, hate them, or have no feelings about them.

Peace!!

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