Friday, April 10, 2015

Something ‘Honest - Flashback Fridays

For a while I have been singing the praises of MMG rapper and Massillon, Ohio born Stalley. Every time he puts out a project or he’s featured on a track I find myself hanging on his every word. When Lincoln Way Nights came out I was in love like no other. I couldn’t truthfully tell you how many times I listened to songs like “Pound”, “330”, and “She Hates The Bass”.

Hearing him on “Ten Jesus Pieces”, “MMG The World Is Ours”, and other tracks made me into a fan of epic proportions. If you asked me right now, I could recite a verse from him right now.

This love of both his lyrical content and his style led me to quick get his last mixtape Honest Cowboy.

Honest Cowboy is just as beautifully rhymed as anything I’ve listened to from Stalley. In much the same way of any of my reviews, I fell in love with a few songs above the others. Allow me to share them with you.

Swangin’” is a favorite. It features Texas rapper (and Southern legend) Scarface and vocalist Joi Tiffany. Much as you’d expect from a Stalley tape this is another ode to riding slow in a beautiful vehicle through his neighborhood. The sights and sounds are laced through and it takes you on a journey that makes everything else melt away.

Samson” is a bombastic track with heavy bass and a slightly dark feel to it. I would liken it to something Kanye might have produced for one of his last two albums. Within the production you hear Stalley rap with a bit of braggadocio that plays well against everything.

The Highest” features Crystal Torres and is a smoker’s type of track. Crystal’s vocals trickle through the track and add a certain quality to that makes me think that s this song is being played the backdrop and everything you see should be green.

NineteenEighty7”, to me, feels like a freestyle battle or just lyrical acrobats. For that sort of thing you’d need an amazing lyricist with an amazing delivery. Enter ScHoolboy Q, playing a strong counterpoint to every one of Stalley’s verses. As I listen to it there is this undeniable feeling that I should be watching these two in a cypher or something.

I would also suggest checking out tracks like “Raise Your Weapons”, “Cup Inside A Cup”, and “A-Wax”.

Per usual, Stalley gives a strong performance with great lyricism and very good features. Honestly, it makes me wish and wonder for a full length studio album.

But honest?

He’s secretly given us his third with this.

Written by Lucius Black

The Same’? Doubtful… - Flashback Fridays

Recently I posted something on Facebook. Here’s the post:

Drake - Underground Kings

This was just an innocuous little post about a favorite track from the Canadian rapper that everyone loves to mock. It lead to a rather interesting conversation. Here’s the conversation:

I'm getting back to my ways! *A line from the song, for those who don’t know*
December 2 at 9:02pm via mobile

That track has a decidedly Southern sound for a Canadian guy...
December 2 at 11:24pm via mobile 

That's why he had to pay homage with the title.
December 2 at 11:50pm via mobile 

Yup. That song makes you almost forget about all the soft jokes about him...
December 2 at 11:51pm via mobile 

Do you know what the Knights of the Round Table would say if they heard the "tough guys" of our day were poets that wear jewelry? Rappers like Drake and Cole are refreshing because they express something. That's what artists do. That studio gangster stuff is overrated (sets soap box on fire).
Yesterday at 7:07am via mobile 

This is so true when you really look at it. I appreciate Drake more for his certain skill at expressing something beyond fucking bitches, selling drugs, or making money.

It’s with that mentality I dive into Drake’s latest album Nothing Was The Same. As far as his studio albums go, this has to be my favorite at current. The list of features include artists like 2 Chainz, Big Sean, and Jhené Aiko to name a few. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Started From The Bottom” is mentioned here simply because the beat is so damn catchy. The track isn’t so much in a rags to riches story in the strictest sense of hip-hop. It lacks a darker, more introspective production. This track relates the experiences of Drake’s early life and his career beginnings in a more lighthearted way that we’ve seen from other rappers. It is a unique thing that I really like.

Worst Behavior” has become sort of an anthem for a generation, a lot like YOLO did when it was first said. This track has an interesting production. It’s a rather energetic sort of track that reminds me a bit of the film Hustle And Flow for the oddest reason.

My favorite song is “From Time”. Featuring the beautiful and amazingly talented  Jhené Aiko on the hook, this track is deeply introspective and rather understated. As with any song or artistry, it is open for interpretations. My understanding  of it is that the track speaking of Drake looking for love and wondering if he’s already met her before. It’s probably a thought we may have all had from time to time.

The Motion” has an insanely catchy beat that sound synthesized but dark. Overall this song is about moving on and maybe growing up. Assisted by the vocals of Sampha, the track has a slightly haunting quality that I personal love.

Also give a listen to “Hold On, We’re Coming Home”, “All Me”, and “Come Thru”.

Drake is unique in the fact that his songs are emotionally driven as opposed to usually monetary based hip-hop and rap. Like his album title so perfectly states, nothing was the same. I’m thankful for that.

Written by Lucius Black 2013

More Or Less ‘Me Time’? - Flashback Fridays

I have been a fan of Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz since he was Tity Boi and a part of hip-hop duo Playaz Circle. When he went solo through mixtapes and his debut studio album (still a favorite of mine, by the way), I was right there listening as loudly as anyone.  I’m saying this preface the hard truth I must share right now.

B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time is a pretty lackluster album, in my view. It’s good but nowhere near as good as the first.

The sequel to the popular Based On A T.R.U. Story doesn’t seem to have the same sort of gravitas (probably not the word to use to describe to a 2 Chainz album but I’m using it) or inherent fun that its predecessor boasted. This isn’t to say it doesn’t have it’s moments.

Here are few.

Feds Watching” is quite catchy when you listen to it. As a movie fanatic the production reminds me of 1980s Miami and Scarface. There’s a almost Latin groove in it that makes me feel as if maybe the word was mine. Plus I thoroughly love the feature of Pharrell and the ending where they speak in Jamaican Patois. All in all, a rather nice track.

Beautiful Pain” was intriguing because I had never heard 2 Chainz and Ma$e on a track before. Maybe this was what made me even go to this track. It’s a almost cool track with  each rapper discussing things in their lives that could be seen as ‘beautiful pain’. I would also like to note that Ma$e’s flow on this track is damn near identical to the one he gave us on a track from the G.O.O.D. Music album Cruel Summer. The track’s called “Higher”, if you wanted to check it out.

Black Unicorn” is mostly murdered by the poetic stylings of the gorgeous Chrisette Michelle. To be completely honest, I couldn’t tell you exactly what 2 Chainz was rapping on here. At a quick listen I imagine this is an introspective  track. That’s pretty much all I can tell you here.

Netflix” is probably my favorite mostly by default. I say this mostly because the lines of this track make me laugh so much that I like it. Here’s one line, the line where the song derives its name from:

I smoked a blunt for dinner, another blunt for breakfast
2 Chainz, got 'em staring at my necklace
Let's make a sex tape and put it on Netflix
Let's make a sex tape and put it on Netflix

Fergie is the featured artist here. Her verse is rather good, despite the fact she’s not strictly a rapper. Take a look:

When I die, bury me inside the liquor store
Cause when I die, Fergie still gon' be gettin' dough
You do what you can, I do what you can't
You smoke that Bobby Brown, we on that Shabba Ranks
I got it, you want it, you want it, I got it
My girls go shopping, that ain't a mall, that's my closet
So copy, copy, all these bitches just copy
Honor student wit' double Ds, that ain't the bra, that's my ta-tas

I won’t really suggest any tracks to you simply because I really didn’t like the rest of the project. It’s hard to type but that’s the feeling right now.

Often they say rappers need to go back to their mixtapes to find what they had before going mainstream. This may be a good idea for 2 Chainz. I don’t hate the album but I certainly don’t love it.

A little less me time, I think.

Written by Lucius Black 2013

Ignorance To ‘Black Radio Flashback Fridays

They sometimes say that ignorance is bliss.

Sometimes it is.

In the case of Robert Glasper.

Before I had seen anything about his current album Black Radio 2, I knew nothing about the man. I knew even less about his hit CD that preceded this one, an effort that was called Black Radio. Based on the general reactions I had been reading about the first one I truly missed an amazing thing. Taking that into consideration I vehemently refused to miss out on Black Radio 2.

Black Radio 2 is an amazing jazz album with a cool groove that cannot matched. The featured artists are a cadre of unequaled talents. Let me show what I’m talking about.

I Walk Alone” is a motivational anthem of sorts that  can apply to anyone. With the smooth rhymes of Chicago rapper Common and Fall Out Boy front man Patrick Stump giving us a powerful hook, the song speaks of individuality and forging your own path as a person. This idea will often lead you to stand (or walk) alone towards that goal. Hence the title. As if to reinforce that ideal, the amazing Michael Eric Dyson says this:

“The irresistible appeal of Black individuality - where has all of that gone? 
The very people who blazed our path to self-expression and pioneered a resolutely distinct and individual voice have too often succumbed to mind-numbing sameness and been seduced by simply repeating what we hear, what somebody else said or thought and not digging deep to learn what we think or what we feel, or what we believe 
Now it is true that the genius of African culture is surely its repetition, but the key to such repetition was that new elements were added each go-round. Every round goes higher and higher. Something fresh popped off the page or jumped from a rhythm that had been recycled through the imagination of a writer or a musician. Each new installation bore the imprint of our unquenchable thirst to say something of our own, in our own way, in our own voice as best we could. The trends of the times be damned 
Thank God we've still got musicians and thinkers whose obsession with excellence and whose hunger for greatness remind us that we should all be unsatisfied with mimicking the popular, rather than mining the fertile veins of creativity that God placed deep inside each of us.”

What Are Doing?” is a song that presents a point that many relationships need to address. Here the featured artist, the lovely Brandy, sings that in love speaking from the heart and saying exactly what we need and what we mean are infinitely important to the thriving of a relationship. If not, what exactly are we doing? The point is made over a drum heavy beat and it’s mad well.

The song “Calls” is probably my favorite. It’s a beautiful love song sung by the equally beautiful Jill Scott. This song has Scott extolling the virtues of the man she loves and how he is always there to answer her calls, how he ‘don’t take no for an answer when it come to loving her’.  When you really think about it, that’s a lot of what people want from love-someone who is always there when you call and has no limits within the way they love you.

Trust” features Marsha Ambrosius and it speaks of trust, oddly enough. The basic theme here is a woman sees a man she involved with retreating from her. In much the same way she would like nothing more than to run away herself because of past hurts but she is willing to try and  trust again. All she wants is for him to do the same. This is yet another personal and highly relatable track.

Other tracks to check out would be “Worries” featuring Dwele, “You Own Me” featuring Faith Evans, and “Let It Ride” featuring Norah Jones.

As I review this amazing album I am reminded that my ignorance made me miss out on the first effort of this kind.

It will never happen again.

Written by Lucius Black 2013

Thoughtful Excerpts…[2] Flashback Fridays

It’s rare that that I outsource my articles. Maybe it’s because I loved the sound of my own words. It could be wholly possible that I am really arrogant that way…

…or not.

Today I will be sharing an excerpt of an article I read on R. Kelly and his appeal. The insightful piece was again written by a young woman by the name of Christiana Mbakwe. Read and enjoy.

But most of all, think about it.


R. Kelly is one of the most successful R&B artists of our time. He’s sold 54 million records globally, had a career that spans three decades and penned classic records that have provided the soundtrack for some of our best moments.

But while folks were bumping and grinding to his hits, other things were going bump in the night.

In 1994, R. Kelly married a 15-year-old girl named Aaliyah Haughton. The marriage was eventually annulled. They never addressed the union publicly and, consequently, it seemed like R&B folklore. Two years later R. Kelly was sued for $10 million by Tiffany “Tia” Hawkins.

According to the lawsuit, Hawkins started having sex with R. Kelly when she was 15 and he was 24. After the "relationship" ended, Hawkins (then aged 18) slit her wrists in a suicide attempt. A friend of Hawkins alleged that she engaged in a threesome with Kelly and Hawkins while she was 16. The super star settled the lawsuit.

In 2000, Barry Hankerson resigned as R. Kelly’s manager. In a letter to R. Kelly’s attorney, Hankerson states he believes Kelly needs psychiatric help due to his proclivity toward pursuing underage girls.

In 2001, a young woman from Chicago named Tracy Sampson sued R. Kelly. In the lawsuit, it’s alleged she lost her virginity to Kelly at 17, was treated like a “sex object” and was pressured by Kelly into receiving oral sex from a girl she didn’t want to have sex with. He settled the lawsuit. The next year the singer was sued by another young woman from Chicago, named Patrice Jones. Jones estimated that she had sex with Kelly between 20 and 30 times before her 17th birthday. Jones states in her suit that R. Kelly impregnated her while she was underage and then arranged for one of his employees to take her to have an abortion. R. Kelly settled the lawsuit.

In June 2002, R Kelly was indicted on child pornography charges on account of a widely circulated sex tape where he was seen urinating on a young woman. Following a controversial trial where neither Kelly nor his alleged victim took the stand, Kelly was acquitted. Although prosecutors could not definitively say when the tape was made (or if it was indeed the alleged victim), multiple family members state it’s the alleged victim. A friend of the alleged victim claimed the tape was created in the summer after eighth grade.

You can read the rest of the article here: R. Kelly

For more thoughts, feelings, and words from this talented young woman here is her information.

Twitter: Christiana Mbakwe
Tumblr: Christiana Mbakwe

Written by Lucius Black 2013

Thoughtful Excerpts…[1] - Flashback Fridays

It’s rare that that I outsource my articles. Maybe it’s because I loved the sound of my own words. It could be wholly possible that I am really arrogant that way…

…or not.

Today I will be sharing an excerpt of an article I read on Kanye West. The insightful piece was written by a young woman by the name of Christiana Mbakwe. Read and enjoy.

But most of all, think about it.

My Thoughts On The Current Incarnation Of Mr. Kanye West

I have a few thoughts on Kanye’s recent press run, then I’ll leave you all to get on with your day. I think before we examine Kanye’s current state, it’s important to look at what he’s said in the past about himself.

"We ain’t retards the way teachers thought…Now tell my momma I belong in the slow class" The College Dropout, "We Don’t Care"

I remember watching a documentary and Kanye stating his school teachers believed he had a learning disability, whereas his mum said he was genius. Rather than accept the teacher’s diagnosis Donda West instilled in Kanye a level of self-belief that would even intimidate the supremely confident.

I think both Kanye’s mother and teachers were probably accurate in their appraisal. Kanye is a genius with a learning disability. Kanye displays savant like behaviour. For most of his life the presence of his mother, meant his deficiencies were tempered. When she passed away, his sole check and balance disappeared.

Critics have dismissed Kanye’s behaviour as that of an asshole. However the way Kanye persists in counter-intuitively breaking the social contract suggests to me he isn't an “asshole” but someone with an untreated condition. I don’t know enough about learning disabilities to speculate which, but a friend of mine who’s familiar with autism suggested he could be autistic. They pointed to Kanye’s reluctance to look people directly in the eye, tics that resemble outbursts, obsession with symmetry and order, and lack of emotional intelligence.

I’ve said for years I think that the car accident, fame, followed by the death of his mother and relationship could mean Kanye has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These life changing events occurred within close proximity to each other, and Kanye didn’t retreat from the public eye, he worked more. I’d like to underscore some of my points by stating I think Kanye is on drugs/drunk a lot. This is conjecture but I suspect I’m right (a bottle of Hennessey was his accomplice during the Taylor Swift incident) The presence of drugs/alcohol can’t be helping his mental state.

Soon after the death of his mother, Kanye begins dating Amber Rose, the diametric opposite of his ex Alexis Phifer, and the woman he loved the most - his mother. His music gets darker, his outbursts seem more sinister and after a series of public incidents where he behaved in an unbecoming manner he’s labelled an “asshole”

I think Kanye West is traumatised. Does he behave like an asshole because of the trauma? Or has the trauma exacerbated his pre-existing asshole tendencies? I can’t determine causality. Now Kanye’s with Kim Kardashian. A woman who’s unlikely to be a voice of dissent and reason at a phase in his life when he needs these things the most.

Kanye has a stable of issues. I think he’s unravelling. However an unravelling man is still capable of being insightful. Kanye’s saying a lot of insightful things. I think his intentions are murky but it doesn’t diminish the veracity of his claims.

What’s obvious to me is that Kanye isn’t a revolutionary. Revolutions are for the people by the people. They uproot and destroy old orders. Kanye isn’t a revolutionary. He’s a reformist. What he’s actually asking for is a reform of a biased framework, not for its destruction. Kanye’s a reformist not a revolutionary because revolution would mean he would lose his wealth. He doesn’t want that, he wants more. More wealth, more power, more recognition.

For more thoughts, feelings, and words from this talented young woman here is her information.

Twitter: Christiana Mbakwe
Tumblr: Christiana Mbakwe

Written by Lucius Black 2013

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Issue of Royalty Magazine (Sneak Peek)

All Royalty Edition Dropping Soon!!!! Stay tuned >>>  

Want to be featured in Royalty Magazine?  You still have time to get in the next issue.  Click here to book now! 

For Magazine Placement/Features please click here or visit

For Radio Appearances/Interviews please click here or visit

For Digital/Street Team Promo please click here or visit

For Mixtape placement please click here or visit

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hip Hop Radar (Week Of 3/29-4/4)

SCOTTY ATL  – Traffic Jamz
Scotty ATL (@ScottyATL) gives a cool Atlanta sound once again on Traffic Jamz, the nine (9) track EP that can be played from start to finish. With production by K.E. On The Track, DJ Toomp, and even Scotty ATL himself the tape is definitely worth a listen or two. A few features include Big K.R.I.T., B.o.B., and London Jae.

SUGGESTIONS: “Keith Sweat”, “The Hangover”, “Greatest Story Ever Told
RATING: 5 of 5

DUKE CONTRAIL –  Still Pledging
Long Beach’s Duke Contrail (@Duke_Contrail) presents us with Still Pledging. It’s understated, akin to Kendrick Lamar at times. His smooth flow is engaging and tells an amazing story on each and every track. There is an almost hypnotic quality to both the production and the delivery. It’s certainly a tape to check for if you're into a more jazz infused sound.

SUGGESTIONS: “Still Pledging”, “Sean Jamerson”, “Greatful Sinners
RATING: 5 of 5
DOWNLOAD HERE: Duke Contrail

Chynna Chameleon - Split Personality
Another California resident, the complete opposite of the previous tape. Chynna Chameleon (@ChynnaChamaleon) offers both amazing vocals and a strong flow that sounds like LA and the Bay area breathed life into her like a modern Pygmalion. This is evident throughout her tape Split Personality. Hosted by DJ Carisma (@DJCarisma), the tape as a whole is fun, hyped, and well put together. Expect great things from her.

SUGGESTIONS: “I Got It Like That”, “Paper Doll”, “Pink Slip
RATING: 5 of 5
DOWNLOAD HERE: Chynna Chameleon

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (Week Of 3/29-4/4)

It’s back, ladies and gentlemen. Five things, five thoughts, five verdicts as determined by the man called Lucius Black. So...who here is ready for another installment of The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly?

1. Azealia Banks-I’m not personally a fan of her music. Things like that happen from time to time. But I respect her for simply being herself and being a Black woman who has a passion for what it is she does in life. The Bible says that one should lean not on their own understanding so I will borrow something my ever intelligent friend Jasmine said.

She [the homie Jasmine] says:

...She's still super immature (which is exactly what she should be at 23), but every time she's asked serious industry questions, she lights up like a Christmas tree. It's refreshing to see an artist take pride in their craft/culture so passionately.

No greater summary than that. Congrats on the Billboard cover. Gorgeous lady.


2. J. Cole-I apologize first for getting into the amazing 2014 Forest Hills Drive album so late. But I got there and I’m thankful for it. Per his usual, Cole tells one great story after another. But what makes this album so unique is that there are NO FEATURES. Not a one. What makes it more unique is that he [Cole] is the first hip-hop a in twenty-five years to go platinum without any features. To put that in perspective...

...I’m twenty-seven. So the last time this occurred, I was two.

Wow. Cole world indeed.


3. Manuela Arbelaez-The name doesn't mean a thing to you. If you Google it, you’d have an association. For those who are just reading this and forgoing Google’s power, allow me to tell you about her: this is the model on The Price Is Right who accidentally revealed the price of the car during “Five Price Tags,” a game that involves correctly choosing a vehicle’s value among five over-sized tags.

Arbelaez accidentally unmasked the correct $21,960 price after the contestant’s first pick, even though the participant still had two more chances to guess.

"It was a brain fart," said Arbelaez. "I just zoned out. I literally did not see that coming. My body took over and reacted before my brain had a chance to stop it."

The goof brought Arbelaez to tears and sent “Price is Right” host Drew Carey into a giggle fit.

"Congratulations, Manuela just gave you a car," Carey told the contestant.

She kept her job.

I guess we all have those moments and this is a very public example of it.

VERDICT: BAD (we all have those days)

4. Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law-Damn it. I fucking told myself I wouldn't get drawn into this. I’m gonna hit this quick and go on about my business. One opinion to express.

The biggest problem: this law opens a dangerous door. The legislation could allow for businesses to discriminate against LGBT employees based on the claim of "religious reasons". Essentially this is masking hate as religious freedom. Sorta like a hateful Halloween, if you will. And from there it can only go bad...especially if they all decide to dress up like “Christians” that day.


5. Wrestlemania 31-It was fucking DOPE! If you didn't see for you.

VERDICT: GOOD (I saw it), BAD (if you didn’t)

Friday, April 3, 2015


I have high hopes when I think on artists that I admire, respect, or truly rock with. It’s selfish or maybe unfair at times to put such pressure on these lyrical gangsters. But recently those high hopes have been soundly rewarded.

iBeast exceeded expectations by leaps and bounds.

I pretty much love everything that Kamikaze Hendrix does these days and all the days before.

But I’m not talking about them.

This one goes out to the Fly Mind Poets.

They have so far dropped three (3) singles from the upcoming compilation effort #NationLeaks. I have been wowed and utterly floored by the first two. Between the two tracks I find myself hemming and hawing, trying desperately to figure out which is the favorite. 

Maybe after an hour or two, I had it figured.

I go between them both because both are excellent works of art.

Then they, to quote Barz here, fucked the game up

This happened when they dropped the third single, “Motivational Speakerz”.

Produced by Dynamic Arrangement, the track features the brothers doing what they do best: flow effortlessly over the beat. And what a beat it is. When I hear it it gives me an almost 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit vibe. Something about the repetition of that one refrain gives me a suspicion that this song would not be out of place in a video game. The rest is tight drums and and the keyboard playing counterpoint to everything.

Once more both Barz and Blazzor prove themselves masters of the metaphors. The title speaks to two things, much as the previous brilliance of “ShoeBoxInTheClosetFlow” and “Genius Genes” did.

First we are made to ponder those motivational speakers we all grew up knowing. Names like Dr. King, Malcolm X, and Maya Angelou to name a few people. That image is planted firmly in your mind as you listen and look at the single art.

Secondly, motivational speakers implies that speakers, sound, and real music has a motivation of its own. This motivation comes through the speakers.

OK, I lied. Three things.

The third is simply that the two thoughts combine to say that two men, motivational in their own right, can move the crowd to that particular sentiment through speakers and an uplifting message. It’s the most clever way of calling yourself the future without actually having to come out and say it.

And one thing these brother are is clever.

So as it stands now, this track is my favorite. I think the drop for #NationLeaks will undo that statement before long.

In the meantime, click the link below and get yourself motivated through speakers.

Grammy Season - Flashback Fridays

With the Grammy Awards around the corner and the nominees announced, here’s a short list of the categories and the nominees.

Click here for the complete list: Complete Grammy List

Get Lucky — Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams
Radioactive — Imagine Dragons
Royals — Lorde
Locked Out Of Heaven — Bruno Mars
Blurred Lines — Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell

The Blessed Unrest — Sara Bareilles
Random Access Memories — Daft Punk
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City — Kendrick Lamar
The Heist — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Red — Taylor Swift

Just Give Me A Reason — Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink Featuring Nate Ruess)
Locked Out Of Heaven — Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Bruno Mars)
Roar — Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry & Henry Walter, songwriters (Katy Perry)
Royals — Joel Little & Ella Yelich O'Connor, songwriters (Lorde)
Same Love —- Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Mary Lambert)

James Blake
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Kacey Musgraves
Ed Sheeran

Brave — Sara Bareilles
Royals — Lorde
When I Was Your Man — Bruno Mars
Roar — Katy Perry
Mirrors — Justin Timberlake

Get Lucky — Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams
Just Give Me A Reason — Pink Featuring Nate Ruess
Stay — Rihanna Featuring Mikky Ekko
Blurred Lines — Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell
Suit & Tie — Justin Timberlake & Jay Z

Paradise — Lana Del Rey
Pure Heroine — Lorde
Unorthodox Jukebox — Bruno Mars
Blurred Lines — Robin Thicke
The 20/20 Experience — The Complete Experience — Justin Timberlake

Love And War — Tamar Braxton
Best Of Me — Anthony Hamilton
Nakamarra — Hiatus Kaiyote Featuring Q-Tip
How Many Drinks? — Miguel Featuring Kendrick Lamar
Something — Snarky Puppy with Lalah Hathaway
Best Traditional R&B Performance
Please Come Home — Gary Clark Jr.
Get It Right — Fantasia
Quiet Fire — Maysa
Hey Laura — Gregory Porter
Yesterday — Ryan Shaw

Best Of Me - Anthony Hamilton & Jairus Mozee, songwriters (Anthony Hamilton)
Love And War - Tamar Braxton, Darhyl Camper, Jr., LaShawn Daniels & Makeba Riddick, songwriters (Tamar Braxton)
Only One - PJ Morton, songwriter (PJ Morton Featuring Stevie Wonder)
Pusher Love Girl - James Fauntleroy, Jerome Harmon, Timothy Mosley & Justin Timberlake, songwriters (Justin Timberlake)
Without Me - Fantasia Barrino, Missy Elliott, Al Sherrod Lambert, Harmony Samuels & Kyle Stewart, songwriters (Fantasia Featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliot)

Love And War - Tamar Braxton
Side Effects Of You - Fantasia
One: In The Chamber - Salaam Remi
Unapologetic - Rihanna
New York: A Love Story - Mack Wilds

R&B Divas - Faith Evans
Girl On Fire - Alicia Keys
Love In The Future - John Legend
Better - Chrisette Michele
Three Kings - TGT

Started From The Bottom - Drake
Berzerk - Eminem
Tom Ford - Jay Z
Swimming Pools (Drank) - Kendrick Lamar
Thrift Shop - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz

Power Trip - J. Cole Featuring Miguel
Part II (On The Run) - Jay Z Featuring Beyoncé
Holy Grail - Jay Z Featuring Justin Timberlake
Now Or Never - Kendrick Lamar Featuring Mary J. Blige
Remember You - Wiz Khalifa Featuring The Weeknd

F*#in’ Problems - Tauheed Epps, Aubrey Graham, Kendrick Lamar, Rakim Mayers & Noah Shebib, songwriters (ASAP Rocky Featuring Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar)
Holy Grail - Shawn Carter, Terius Nash, J. Harmon, Timothy Mosley, Justin Timberlake & Ernest Wilson, songwriters (Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl & Krist Novoselic, songwriters) (Jay Z Featuring Justin Timberlake)
New Slaves - Christopher Breaux, Ben Bronfman, Mike Dean, Louis Johnson, Malik Jones, Elon Rutberg, Sakiya Sandifer, Che Smith, Kanye West & Cydell Young, songwriters (Anna Adamis & Gabor Presser, songwriters) (Kanye West)
Started From The Bottom - W. Coleman, Aubrey Graham & Noah Shebib, songwriters (Bruno Sanfilippo, songwriter) (Drake)
Thrift Shop - Ben Haggerty & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz)

Nothing Was The Same - Drake
Magna Carta...Holy Grail - Jay Z
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City - Kendrick Lamar
The Heist - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Yeezus - Kanye West

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013

Luxury’ Or Lies? - Flashback Fridays

Can I be honest with my readers for a second?

B.o.B.’s album history, to me, is a bit on the sketchy side to me.

Allow me to elucidate.

With no preamble I can say that I loved  his [B.o.B.’s] debut studio album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray from the first moment I heard it. It was a juggernaut of an album that was piloted to greatness by singles such as “Airplanes”, “Nothin’ On You”, “Bet I”, “Magic”, and “Don’t Let Me Fall”. Even the tracks that weren’t released as singles had an inherent greatness to them.

For me, Strange Clouds was OK. I say this mostly because I was roundly irritated by the Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj features (“Strange Clouds” and “Outta My Mind”, respectively). I was very intrigued by the Morgan Freeman narrated “Bombs Away” and the Taylor Swift assisted “Both Of Us”. Aside from that, I mostly don’t listen to that album all that much.

This leads me to Underground Luxury. They say third time’s the charm. It was this proverb (or whatever it is) that made me venture to listen.

The first three tracks are generally well received by me.

All I Want” is the introspections of a wealthy person who dreamed of having it all and now has the means to have just that. B.o.B. vocalizes and raps well about this subject. The production has a certain swelling value to it that I love. “One Day” is a piano driven track that seems to compliment the previous track. This time it takes more of a rags to riches tact. The aforementioned piano is the punctuation to the lines B.o.B. flows. “Paper Route” is more in line with a hip-hop track it has more of a heavy bass centered beat and more expletives. But it has all the unmistakable earmarks of a hustling anthem. The title gives us another way to say “the grind” or “the hustle”

I listened to more but I won’t talk about those songs.

What I will discuss is the track “Throwback”. There is a repetitive sample at the beginning that almost a chant or something akin to that. It’s a sexualized track, truthfully. But as with most tracks like it, it’s insanely catchy. This one features Chris Brown both rapping and singing. It’s definitely worth a listen.

Back Me Up” is my current favorite. There is something almost entrancing about the beat on this one. I want to call it eerie but I think that may not be the best word for it. I love the rhyming on this one as well as the repeated refrain of each side ‘backing him up’. If I were to make this music video it would be dark and melodic, a lot like the song itself.

I would also suggest listening to “Headband”, “Still In This Bitch”, and “John Doe” to name a few.

I went into this review with no expectations. Leave it to B.o.B. to exceed those expectations and give a strong third effort that makes me place it with his debut and think on it fondly.

Great job.

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013

Still 'King' - Flashback Fridays

Consistency is key.

Nowhere is this more true than is music. It’s the one thing an artists looks for as they continue to add to their catalog of music genius. Some cannot do it despite their best efforts to and others do well with this concept only to occasionally stumble. Those who do falter need only step away and try again.

Of many artists, Big K.R.I.T does this flawlessly.

I say this as I listen to his mixtape King Remembered In Time, the latest in a long line of monstrous albums and mixtapes.

Let’s get into it.

Purpose” is probably one of the shortest songs on the tape. However, it is no less profound. As the title so rightly suggests the track takes a deep and profound look at what it is our purpose is. K.R.I.T. does this by talking about his own life as an example of sorts.

Shine On” is equally strong track. I love how it starts and the quick change in the beat. K.R.I.T. fiercely raps here about shining on as a person through the hate and all deterrence. One of my favorite parts of this song would have to be the feature by Bun B.  Usually Bun gives us that Texas pimp knowledge in a loud voice full of confidence and braggadocio. This verse is legendary but understated, short and sweet.

The next two songs I’m going to tell you about will have lines that need to be quoted.

REM” was my surprise favorite. Here K.R.I.T. speaks frankly about his dreams, his music, and his experiences with fame. The first verse especially does it for me.

In a room full of tight stairs
Was hell a few dreams or nightmares
I dare rap about my real life
Good Lord I gave my all but just don't feel right
Jigaboos are means to you, but never me
Black face, my black face could never be
Sambo, my camo say otherwise
That revolution of mind will never televise
One album I'm still kickin’
Def Jam I'm tell em I'm still whippin’
Tell ‘em I'm still winnin‘,
Tell ‘em I'm still in it
Make time, I drop a bomb
I swear I'm a kill niggas
No pause is needed, I swear I don't feel niggas
Snakes in my front yard, I swear I'm a deal with ‘em
I own the steel hitter
Pray that they still get it
I feel like I failed Jones, it's hard to live with it, my dreams

In much the same way, “Meditate” has some of the best lyrics. Yet the general theme of the song can be seen in the hook.

I don't wanna hear what I've done wrong
I'll deal with my problems when I get home
I'm better off when I'm all alone
I know I said I'd stop but I'm not that strong
I just wanna meditate

The track speaks of drinking away problems or rather meditating over so many thoughts as you drink. The verses are crafted into a beautiful story of introspection, regrets, spirituality, and  hope.

There are no suggestions because the whole mixtape is worth a listen.

And that’s where I end the review. K.R.I.T., still a king.

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013

And We… ‘Sail Out - Flashback Fridays

To me, Jhené Aiko was just an amazing voice I heard on three tracks I heard in 2013.

The first is Big Sean’s “Beware”. Her sweet and amazing vocals made me almost forget that Lil Wayne was also a featured artist on the track. This young woman is just that melodic. I also enjoyed her vocals alongside J. Cole on the bonus track “Sparks Will Fly”. The way she sang the hook seemed to increase the value of the track by at least ten points.

But the song where she really killed it was Drake’s “From Time”. If you haven’t heard that hook yet, let me bless you with it.

I love me, I love me enough for the both of us
That's why you trust me, I know you been through more than most of us
So what are you? What are you, what are you so afraid of?
Darling you, you give but you cannot take love

Armed with these songs as an idea of her I ventured into her EP Sail Out. It’s a seven song  EP that is filled with both great features but amazing vocals.

The Vapors” is a double entrendre at its absolute best. Throughout the song she compares a man to marijuana in  an exceedingly clever way. As the song goes you are often wonder which she speaks of when she repeats the hook, a sultry inquiry that basically says this: can I hit it again? Vince Staples comes through with a strong verse that makes this song that much more worth the listen.

Bed Peace” is a love song in probably the loosest meaning of the word. She [Aiko] speaks of making love to a guy and being left to her own devices, an idea that truly appeals to many if not all men. But the way she sings it makes it sound so beautiful that it seems like something perfect. Childish Gambino provides lyrical reinforcement and adds to the ideas that has been shared flawlessly.

The Worst” is a break-up song with a rare twist. Most songs of the like speak ill of the guy in question without speaking of the most obvious truth of a break-up: sometimes you miss the guy (or girl in some cases). Before she gets to that point Aiko delivers a line that is telling and sure to be repeated by the female population for quite a while.

Please don't take this personal
But you ain't shit
And you weren't special
‘Til I made you so
You better act like you know

The hook acknowledges that although she has no need for him, she still wants him. This is a dilemma that many people find themselves in, making this song so relatable.

Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)” is my favorite track. This is a song of regrets and hindsight. In the song Aiko regrets her dealings with on particular guy she met. Her sweet voice belies the fact that she regrets having sex with the guy and laments hearing certain things she from a close friend. This one is an honest view of regretting a guy that you cannot get anywhere else.

The other three tracks are definitely worth listening to so check those out.

Jhené Aiko murders with this EP, seven songs that were so well crafted that I scarcely have the words to describe it. All I know is that I am anxious for her debut studio album next year.

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013

'Epilogue' - Flashback Fridays

As many of my readers know, I am a fan of Southern hip-hop. It's as much a part of my souk as soul food and Savannah, GA.

One of my favorite subgenres is Texas hip-hop. I thank my cousin for really putting me on. Granted I listened to the big names like Scarface and UGK. It was he that introduced me to Coota Bang and Lil Keke to name a few.

When I think of Texas, I think of UGK. Bun B, half of the duo, has been making great solo music before partner Pimp C was in prison and after his tragic death.

His latest album, Trill OG: The Epilogue, is another entry into an already impressive body of work.

The album is basically comprised of tracks left over from the recording sessions of the previous album, Trill OG. This album includes a plethora of features from artists including Big K.R.I.T., Lil' O, Pimp C, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Serani, Raekwon, Kobe, Royce da 5'9", C-Note, Big Hawk, Lil Boosie, E.S.G., Redman, Kirko Bangz, Devin the Dude, Trae tha Truth and Z-Ro.

Fire” is a fun track in the fact that it has a decidedly Jamaican influence to it. You can even hear this in Bun B’s delivery. Dancehall artist Serani lends his vocals to the hook while rappers 2 Chainz and Rick Ross offer verses that are lyrically apropos to the track. As a fan or dancehall music and the culture I love that Bun B.

Gladiator” is Bun B at his finest. It’s pure Southern, pure braggadocio. I love how he rhymes with such ferocity and fervor. It’s what you come to expect from him and I am thankful for it.

"The Legendary DJ Screw" is, for all intents and purposes, Texas hip-hip tribute to the late DJ Screw. For the unaffiliated, DJ Screw popularized not in only drinking lean (codeine based cough syrup) as well as chopped and screwed music, a staple of Texas hip-hop. The track is feature heavy with features from E.S.G., C-Note, Lil' O, Trae tha Truth, Z-Ro, and Big Hawk. A fitting tribute to a Southern legend.

While you are listening, I suggest that check out tracks like "Off Top", "Cake", and "On One".

All in all, it is another classic album from Bun B. I personally suggest playing this one loud in your car with a cup of your favorite legal (or illegal if you are feeling bold) beverage.

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013

Nelly's 'MO' - Flashback Fridays

Let's be completely honest for a second, guys.

Who here gave up on Nelly?

I know you probably can't see it but my hand is being held as high as it can be. Granted I have heard him on a song here or a remix there. Outside of that, I had no expectations of a resurgence from the man who has given us so many hits in a past career.

Enter M.O., Nelly's latest album. As a whole, it's a decent enough effort. Although it doesn't have the same sort of magic that Country Grammar or Nellyville but it seems to be a effort to gain back a measure of his former glory. At moments he seems to capture it, almost as if he hadn't fallen off at all.

Here are a few of those moments...

"Rick James" is a fun track. It feels a lot like some of his more entertaining tracks like "Batter Up" or "Pimp Juice". Two things about this one really appeal to me. One is what sounds like a Mary Jane Girls sample, which is appreciated. The other is a T.I. verse. And I cannot forget the repeated, "I'm rich, bitch..." in that true Rick James style.

"Heaven" is another track I liked. It's a sweet song that features vocalist Daley on the hook. When I hear the combination of the two I nod my head and just sing along. It's just catchy that way.

Speaking of which...

Maryland, Massachusetts” is really catchy to me for some reason. Maybe it’s the way that the two states are chanted in the song. Or it could be the production. Whatever the case may be, I like it without words to really tell you why.

This album feels like a stepping stone of sorts in that Nelly is trying to recapture some of the old magic while making himself relevant for a new generation. It's a tricky thing but only time will tell if it succeeds.

I guess that's his M.O.

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013

Yet Another 'Experience' - Flashback Fridays

Justin Timberlake killed the game when The 20/20 Experience first came out. I must have listened to it quite a few times through before I started counting off favorites. One such favorites had to be "Strawberry Bubblegum". The list then grew to include "Tunnel Vision", "Mirrors", and "Dress On". Even with the ones I named the whole album is a masterpiece of pop and R & B.

I expected nothing less from the follow-up.

Suffice to say, I wasn't disappointed.

The second part, aptly named The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2,  was a mixture of country, R &B, hip-hop, and pop. Each track is crafted by producer Timberland to make something unique and original.

"Only When I Walk Away" is a good track to start with. The track itself is slightly haunting. It can be noted that Timberlake pulls you in with the cadence and the delivery of the verses and certain words. Moreover the song itself tells a story of a game between the two, a game that translates into not knowing what have until you gone. It is emotion and more at its purest.

"Drink You Away" has a decidedly country influenced feel to it. The song is uniquely depressing but it is an easily to relate to. The basic theme of the track is trying to drink away pain, an impossible task since alcohol tends to increase said pain. I will also note that this track feels rougher than any other track, almost as if no production was done at all. You can tell that this one feels full of Justin's emotion and pain. This makes it that much easier to connect to.

"Amnesia" seems like the counterpoint to "Mirrors", a theme that seems to be in his music. Whereas "Mirrors" is a longing for a shared and connected love, "Amnesia" speaks to a love dies in the vein of reality placed to classic live stories like Romeo and Juliet. This sing is the reality of what happens after happily ever after.

Although the whole album is worth listening to, I suggest "TKO", "Cabaret", and "Take Back The Night".

Justin gives us a experience that defies the Ideas of how good a sequel an be. For that I salute him and this project as a whole.

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013

For The Great Gatsby - Flashback Fridays

I haven't seen The Great Gatsby film but I am admittedly curious about it. I mean, anything with Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead actor has got to be amazing, right? He's been amazing in pretty much everything he's been in these last few years.

Based mostly on that level of excellence, I ventured to check out The Great Gatsby OST.

The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of genres, artists, and sounds. Taking that into consideration, we delve in.

"Hearts A Mess" is the first song I will speak on. The track is sang by Gotye. When I listen to the album I imagine the songs were chosen to impart the feel of that era. The subtlety of this song is what is key. Gotye's voice doesn't tend to rise above a whisper. Additionally there is a haunting quality that seeks to identify into the depths of the song. There is almost not need for production on this one.

"Back To Black", originally sung by the late Amy Winehouse, is remade to great effect by Andre 3000 and Beyonce. If you've never heard the original, this may be your first foray into understanding the genius. The always iconic Andrew 3000 adds a depth to the song with his unique and one of a kind sound. Here he plays like a spoken word genius because he enunciates in the right places. When you think of Beyonce, you mostly think of a vocal powerhouse. Here she displays that yes is in fact more, adding a seductive nature to it.

"A Little Party Never Killed Nobody" is a perfect embodiment of the reckless fun that you get from the novel. It is a party anthem that features Fergus, GoonRock, and Q-Tip providing the voice  of the hedonistic party. It's fun when you need fun.

Also take a listen to tracks like "Kill And Run", "Over The Love", and "100$  Bill". They are equally well put together.

The job of a good soundtrack is to embody the mood of the film. This one does it in spades.

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013

The Faces Of Beyoncé [2013 Hangover] - Flashback Fridays

I intentionally waited for some of the overly eager hype to die down from Beyoncé's self-titled album before I reviewed it. As excited as I was for the secret release, great music it came with, the visuals, and utterly universal shock to social media I didn't lose my mind.
However, I cannot say the same for everyone else.

Between people calling her [Beyoncé] a feminist, a whore, the Second Coming, King Bey, and a whole line of nonsensical stuff that I have no intention of repeating I just listened to the tracks, watched a few of the videos, and waited for my spot. As you could probably tell, this is my spot.

Beyoncé is an unexpected album simply because it differs a lot from past albums. The album as a whole has stronger sexual imagery and overtones but it is done in such a way that it is pleasing to the ears. I found myself completely enthralled by this effort, akin to who I was when I first heard Dangerously In Love.This album shows growth because it showcases Beyoncé embracing and revealing all parts of her womanhood: wife, mother, lover, and so much more. It's her way of saying "I'm a woman, I am sexual, I embrace my imperfection, and not afraid to be me." This album to me feels like something a coming out album.

Here are my standout tracks.

Against my personal rule about liking tracks that are heavy in the mainstream, I fell in love with "Drunk In Love". Every moment after that eerie almost Middle Eastern sounding introduction is purely catchy and infectious for no damn reason. I love the delivery of the words here. To me on this one she finally shows you her Southern heritage. Husband Jay-Z comes through to drop a strong verse and add to an already amazing song. I guess it can be noted that this song brought the sexual position "the surfboard" into vogue.

"Flawless" is a great song and makes a major case for Beyoncé being something of a feminist. It speaks on the pressure to be beautiful and just aspiring to be a wife. I loved such a deep thought from her [Beyoncé] amid all the music.

A series of samples from "We should all be feminists", a speech delivered by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a TEDxEuston conference in April 2013, forms the second verse of the song:

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, 'You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man.' Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors – not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes."

Beautiful, really.

These two are my top favorites but I would suggest checking out "Superpower" featuring Frank Ocean, "Blow", and "Mine" featuring Drake. Hell, the whole album is worth a listen. Be sure to check out the visuals as well.

Beyoncé proves with this album exactly why she evokes such strong emotion from her fans and her detractors. Hate her or love her, you cannot deny the talent that she exhibits. This self-titled is a prime example of it.

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013

'Chronicles' [2013 Hangover] - FlashBack Fridays

Jackie Chain is another of those rappers that I didn't realize was so talented until I actually sat down and gave his music a listen. I think when I first saw him I was struck first by the fact that he was Asian-American. In this day in age that sort of thing is pretty rare in American hip-hop. Having never heard of or actually listened to Bruce Lean Chronicles, I was mostly basing my listening and opinions on the sequel.

The title, aptly enough, is Bruce Lean Chronicles 2.

On this mixtape the Huntsville, AL native gives a stellar performance with Southern sensibilities and context firmly in place. Every track is as good if not better than the one before. So without blowing anymore smoke, allow me to tell you about a few tracks.

"Still Mackin' (Mack A Bitch 2)" was the first song of the tape and a strong start to be sure. The track starts with a instrumental and leads into Jackie Chain rapping in a voice that I honestly didn't expect, truthfully. When I heard this one I had no problem seeing Chain rapping alongside any Southern rapper.

This, incidentally enough, leads me to the next track.

"Yea That's Me (Remix)" is the remix to the Big K.R.I.T. song of the same. The remix features not only K.R.I.T. and Chain but fellow Alabama native and all around spitter Yelawolf. These three together give an already good song a new lease on life.

By far my favorite track has to be "Trippin'". The track, although a short one clocking in at 2:38, hits all the right notes. Assisted by rapper Rittz the track is full of quick rhymes, great delivery, and two wonderful artists playing well off of each other. It is definitely a song worth putting on repeat.

The whole mixtape is full of good features. A few examples include "At The Bar" featuring Juicy J and Diamond, "Overdose" featuring FKi, and "Climax" featuring Trae Tha Truth and Jihad.

This mixtape plays out like a road map of nice Southern sound led expertly by Jackie Chain. My opinion is that you cannot look past this tape. Get up on it.

-written by Lucius Black for Street Thoughts/Royalty Magazine 2013