Monday, September 23, 2013

"Sorry to Bother You," The Coup (HHES Review)

Here's my review of the Childish Gambino album "Camp," using the Hip Hop Evaluation System (HHES).

If it weren't for Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle," "The Magic Clap" would the hardest banging song of the year, maybe of the decade. It was one my favorite videos of 2012 (although not even the best video from this album). And it is one of the best songs of any year. The lyrics are amazing, it's technically difficult, it challenges both lyrically and musically, and it's pretty damned fun to sing along with and dance too. Just plain perfection. And maybe one of the best ways to start off an album ever.

"Strange Arithmetic" is a great follow-up track, elevating the challenge of the album in terms of politics and critical thinking. Not to mention that it is an artistic song with a great concept. And it's another song you can easily dance to.

Just when you don't think an album can start off any better, along comes one of the most wildly creative songs ever written, "Your Parents' Cocaine." And the video is even better. Leave it to Boots Riley to combine kazoos, Anti-Flag, hardcore social commentary, and drug-using muppets. And it works so amazingly well.

After three songs, the album would already be a success, but Riley is far from done. "The Gods of Science" is one of the better rhyme schemes I saw all year, backed with superb production as every other song on the album is. Then that is followed by "My Murder, My Love," which has probably the best hook and a album filled with great hooks.

"You Are Not A Riot" shows Riley's amazing ability to balance incredibly catchy, danceable, original, unique songwriting with hardcore political commentary that doesn't hold back and pretty much always gets it right. It's a powerful combination and if radio and TV in the U.S. wasn't dominated by evil corporate interests, this was, by far, the catchiest set of songs released in 2012.

At some point, it starts to become repetitive to talk about this album, not because the album is at all repetitive, but because all of the adjectives I've used on previous songs keep applying. "Land of 7 Billion Dances" is original, danceable, political, great production, etc., etc. It's not at all like the rest of the album, sonically, and it has a more casual delivery than earlier songs, but that gives you a great break from the hardcore stuff that came before, so those are compliments.

"Violet" has some of the most beautiful music on the album and Pam the Funkstress' hook is a album highlight on an album filled with highlights. "This Year" brings in Jolie Holland as the vocalist and it helps keep the album very fresh, giving a bit of a break from Riley's voice which wasn't getting tiring at all, but that's how good the album is, it switches gears early enough and often enough that you keep being marveled at where it's going and awed at how it gets there.

"We've Got A Lot To Teach You, Cassius Green" manages to shock you with it's creativity and commentary when you didn't think the album could do that any more. And yet it does. Riley tries yet another approach to songwriting and he just knocks it out of the park in a way that you'd have a hard time thinking of anything else like it. Maybe ever.

For "Long Island Iced Tea, Neat," Riley brings in Japanther and damned if that doesn't work out perfectly, too. He continues to vary song structures as well and the production is varied enough that this is one of the few albums, of any era, that is so consistently listenable. "The Guillotine" comes in as a pretty amazing activist anthem and the album closes out on a lighter note, although still very socially conscious, with "WAVIP" which brings in even more amazing collaborators, Killer Mike and Das Racist.

Overall Analysis

Flow: 10. Riley has an amazing flow and he varies it enough on this album to keep it always interesting.

Lyrics: 10. There aren't many lyricists better than Riley and his metaphors and politically-charged rhetoric are right up my alley.

Message: 10. This album is all about politics and it's all about the right politics. Sometimes Riley is direct, sometimes he's metaphorical, but he's always on point.

Technical: 10. Hard to think of a rapper who more consistently tries to different things vocally and he always pulls them off on this album.

Production: 10. Every song is different and yet, they sound connected enough to be coherent.

Versatility: 10. This album tries to do a lot of great things and each song is significantly different than the others.

Collaborators: 10. Another area that is just plain perfect. There aren't an excessive number of contributors and every one of them is used to perfection.

History: 9. With a rapper as political as Riley, it'd be hard for the album not to be dripping with history. This one is, even if not a lot of it is explicit.

References: 8. There are quite a few, particularly if you also include the music videos, and the ones that exist are good.

Originality: 10. Albums don't get more original than this.

Total Score: 97. It's hard to imagine any album ever getting a higher score than this.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Retroactive Freshmen Classes of the Hip Hop Era

Building on my previous post, I went ahead and built retroactive Freshmen Classes for all of the previous years of the hip hop era. Consider this list a bit of a draft, as some parts of these lists are a little beyond my inherent knowledge and I had to do some research, which isn't a perfect thing in this case, so I might change it based on your feedback.

Also note that each year's list isn't in any particular order.

1979: Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, Rahiem, Wonder Mike, Ron Hunt, Big Bank Hank, Kurtis Blow, Paulette Winley, Tanya Winley, Lady D

1980: Spoonie G, Jimmy Spicer, Brother D, Sister Nancy, Special K, Kool Moe Dee, TJ Swann, Kool Kyle the Starchild, Spyder D, Sicle Cell

1981: Kool Ski, Kid Delight, Disco Dave, Pee Wee Mel, Lovebug Starski, T Ski Valley, Busy Bee, Jimmy Mac, Mr. Nice, Mr. Schick

1982: Boogie Knight, Romeo J.D., Lil Raheim, Fab 5 Freddy, Duke Bootee, Missy Dee, Sweet G, Jalil Hutchins, Ecstasy, Grandmaster Caz

1983: Run, DMC, Man Parrish, Hashim, T La Rock, Jazzy J, Adrock, MCA, Mike D, Ice T

1984: Roxanne Shate, Davy DMX, The Real Roxanne, Egyptian Lover, Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J, Fresh Kid Ice, Educated Rapper, Prince Markie Dee, Kool Rock-Ski

1985: Slick Rick, Salt, Pepa, Scooly D, Toddy Tee, Kid Frost, Too Short, MC Shan, Sparky D, Steady B

1986: Luke, Brother Marquis, Kool Keith, Ced-Gee, Rakim, KRS-One, Kool G Rap, Biz Markie, Fresh Prince, Dana Dane

1987: Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, KRS-One, Rakim, Erick Sermon, Parrish Smith, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte

1988: Queen Latifah, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, Afrika Baby Bam, Mike Gee, Bushwick Bill, Rob Base, Posdnous, Trugoy the Dove, Chubb Rock

1989: Kool G. Rap, Wise Intelligent, Guru, Large Professor, Sadat X, Lord Jamar, Scarface, Shock G, Greg Nice, Smooth B

1990: Lord Finesse, Paris, MC Eiht, Brother J, Professor X the Overseer, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, D-Nice, K-Solo, Jay-Z

1991: Pharoahe Monch, Busta Rhymes, Tim Dog, B-Real, CL Smooth, 2 Pac, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Bootsy Thornton, Dres, Treach

1992: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Common, A.G., Redman, Bun B, Pimp C, Nas, Everlast, Zev Lov X, Apache

1993: E40, Black Thought, RZA, GZA, Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Andre 3000, Big Boi, Jeru the Damaja, Notorious B.I.G.

1994: Pras, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, Craig Mack, Keith Murray, Nate Dogg, Warren G

1995: Big L, Cee-Lo Green, Big Gipp, Khujo, Mack 10, Da Brat, Aceyalone, DJ Paul, Juicy J, Lord Infamous

1996: Lil Kim, Xzibit, Capone, Noreaga, Ras Kass, Master P, Big Shug, Slug, WC, Puff Daddy

1997: Mase, Pusha T, Sonny Cheba, Geechi Suede, Peter Gunz, Canibus, Missy Elliot, Aesop Rock, Murs, Lord Tariq

1998: DMX, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Cappadonna, Big Pun, Eminem, Mystikal, Juvenile, Cam'Ron, Afroman

1999: Lil Wayne, Eve, Bumpy Knuckles, Pastor Troy, RA the Rugged Man, Screwball, Dizzy Dustin, Andy Cat, Young Bleed, No Malice

2000: Black Rob, Ludacris, Nelly, Beanie Sigel,, M-1, Madlib, Memphis Bleek, Mac Dre, Royce da 5'9"

2001: TI, Proof, Bizarre, Sleepy Brown, MF Doom, Devin the Dude, G. Dep, Fabolous, C-Rayz Walz, Immortal Technique

2002: Edan, Killer Mike, Big Noyd, Styles P, Infamous 2.0, Tragedy Khadafi, Cage, Chamillionaire, Sage Francis, Gift of Gab

2003: 50 Cent, David Banner, Turf Talk, Blaq Poet, Bonecrusher, Juelz Santana, Tony Yayo, D-Roc, Dizzee Rascal, Brother Ali

2004: Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, Kanye West, Mannie Fresh, MC Jin, Lil' Flip, Lil' Scrappy, Slim Thug, Keak Da Sneak, Jim Jones

2005: Young Jeezy, The Game, Sean Price, Mac Mall, Mistah F.A.B., Paul Wall, Rhymefest, Rapper Big Pooh, Ohmega Watts, K'Naan

2006: Rick Ross, Sway, Joe Budden, Termanology, Travie McCoy, Lady Sovereign, Blueprint, Obie Trice, Naledge, Double-0

2007: Stat Quo, Rich Boy, Huey, ST 2 Lettaz, Yung Clova, Shawty Lo, Chuck Inglish, Mikey Rocks, Skyzoo, NYOIL

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ranking XXL's Freshmen Classes

So I read XXL Magazine's Freshman Class 2013 issue and I was really fascinated by the idea. For those that don't know what it is, every year for the past six years, the hip hop magazine has released an issue with its Top 10 newcomers for the year, giving them some free press and getting them new audiences. I really like the idea, even if the execution isn't particularly awesome.

This made me think of two things that I'm going to write about. The first is to go over the six freshman classes they've done so far and ranking the artists. It'll be a combination of how much I personally like the artists mixed with some measure of their success and output since they were recognized. A combination of subjective and objective rankings. The second thing would be to do a retroactive list of Freshmen for every year during the rap era. I'll do that second one later, for now I want to rank the classes...

(Take these with a bit of a grain of salt, though, since a lot of these rappers I've only heard a little bit from and some of them I'll be listening to for the first time while writing this. I'll update it in the future as I learn more).


1. Lupe Fiasco: Seemingly, by far, the most successful member of the first class. I like him quite a bit. I like his style and I like songs like "Words I Never Said" and "Kick Push" quite a bit.

2. Papoose: I first heard of Papoose doing a track about a police brutality incident in NY and I loved the track. I've liked some of his other stuff, too, but I wouldn't say I love anything he's done, although I do keep listening, because he's far from whack.

3. Crooked I: Like his flow and his voice. I'm definitely going to listen to more after hearing "Dream Big" and "Pac and Biggie."

4. Saigon: Mostly know of him because of his appearances on "Entourage." The tracks I listened to, "Come on Baby" and "Ryders" were solid, but not spectacular. "Come on Baby" has a great beat and really takes off when Jay-Z comes in, but that's not a spectacular sign for Saigon.

5. Joell Ortiz: Not a bad writer, but his style doesn't stand out to me. He's far from terrible and "Hip Hop" isn't a bad track.

6. Lil Boosie: He's been pretty successful, but I tried listening to "Devils" and it didn't do anything for me.

7. Plies: I can't get past how much I dislike the production on the tracks I heard, "Bust It Baby Part 2" and "Shawty," although "Hypnotized" wasn't terrible. He doesn't seem to be horrible technically.

8. Gorilla Zoe: While I totally respect the idea of releasing a mixtape a day for an entire month, the tracks "Echo" and "Hood N*gga" really left me cold. They're really part of what I call the "lazy" trend in hip hop. Slow, awkward delivery, pointless lyrics that could've been delivered by anyone and nothing to stand out from any other song.

9. Rich Boy: Really don't like the choppy style and run-of-the-mill production on "Throw Some D's" and I hate songs about cars.

10. Young Dro: "FDB" and "Shoulder Lean" are even lazier than Gorilla Zoe.


1. Kid Cudi: I'm not yet a massive fan, but I could be on the way since I've liked quite a few of his tracks, including "Day N Nite," "Poke Her Face," and several tracks off of "Indicud."

2. Blu: A much better sound than most of the 2009 class, I'm really interested in hearing a lot more of his sound, which is influenced by the genre that shares his name. His flow is pretty solid, too.

3. Asher Roth: Silly throwaway stuff, but "I Love College" and "Party Girl" are fun songs.

4. B.o.B: He's obviously massively successful, even if he leans very poppy. Although to be fair, he isn't exactly poppy in a bad way, more Justin Timberlake than Britney Spears. Teaming up with the likes of Eminem, Lupe Fiasco, and Morgan Freeman get him a boost and his response to "Control" was pretty strong, but then again, he did a song with Taylor Swift, so...

5. Charles Hamilton: "Brooklyn Girls" is a pretty awesome track, so it's hard to understand why such a prolific rapper has little to no mainstream stuff out.

6. Mickey Factz: He's pretty good on "Paradise" and as a guest on "I'm So Tall," but he really needs to step up the production schedule or risk being a footnote.

7. Ace Hood: He seems to have a lot of potential, but he's hanging out with people like Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Future, Rick Ross and Wiz Khalifa, all of whom he's better than and bring him down on songs like "Body 2 Body" and "Bugatti," although he does much better when alone, like on "Hustle Hard."

8. Cory Gunz: Hard to say much about someone who has so little output. He did guest on the only Lil Wayne song I can stand "6 Foot, 7 Foot," but I don't get much of a feel for him from "Foreign." Maybe "Colder," which is somewhat better is a better example of what he can do. Remains to be seen.

9. Wale: Really not my type of music. After listening to "Bad" and "Lotus Flower Bomb," I respect the quality of the production and the guest appearances are solid, but they music is just too R&B and light for my tastes.

10. Curren$y: "Jet Life" and "Capitol" both sound kinda dull to me. Not quite in the lazy category, since the production is better than that, but you can see a bit of the Master P/Lil Wayne influence on him and it hurts him when you hear it.


1. Big Sean: The fact that he got Kendrick Lamar to join him for "Control" puts him to close to the top of the 2010 list, but "Hall of Fame" is growing on me, so he's probably at the top of what looks to be the weakest of these lists.

2. Fashawn: He has better production than most of the people on any of these lists and has a flow that is well above average, even if some of his lyrics are a little cliche. "Samsonite Man," "Relaxation" and "Nothin For the Radio" were all well worth listening to more than once. "Life As A Shorty" also has a really great overall sound.

3. J. Cole: Been listening to "Born Sinner" and I definitely don't hate it. It's going to take some additional listens to make me know how much I like it since nothing jumps out at me.

4. Donnis: He's a little too poppy for my tastes, generally speaking, but his stuff is better than most of the pop rappers out there right now. I checked out "Gone," "I Made It," and "Knockout" and while none of them, well, knocked me out, I didn't hate them, either.

5. Nipsey Hussle: His name alone gets him further up the list. His flow isn't bad at all, and "I Need That" and "7 Days a Week" don't sound terrible, although the production is a bit weak and the lyrics are a little cliche.

6. Jay Rock: On "Say Wassup" and "Hood Gone Love It," Jay Rock has solid production and a good enough flow, but the songs just don't grab me. I'm wait and see on this guy.

7. Pill: The first two tracks I listened to, "Pacman" and "Don't Let Go" (a guest verse) were marred by intros that featured Rick Ross and autotune. The lyrics on "Ride Dat Pole" are atrocious. Pill's flow is solid, but I've already heard these songs. Today.

8. Freddie Gibbs: By this point in the list, I'm really coming to the conclusion that the 2010 class is by far the worst in the freshman era. Gibbs' work on "Bout It Bout It," "BFK" and "Eastside Moonwalker," is passable, but, again, sounds just like everything else that is on this list that I've complained about already.

9. OJ da Juiceman: To start off, his name is pretty dumb. "Make That Trap Say Aye" is so annoying that I couldn't listen to anything else he was involved in.

10. Wiz Khalifa: I do not like Khalifa. He's so dull he almost messed up Tyga's "Molly" song and it isn't like Tyga's the best technical rapper in the game, so if you can't hang with Tyga...


1. Kendrick Lamar: Of anybody on this list, he has the profile to launch him into megastardom. "Backseat Freestyle" might be the most banging track of the last decade and I love it when he starts rapping in Spanish. His calling out of pretty much every rapper in the game was a genius move from a marketing standpoint AND from the point of view of trying to elevate the artform.

2. Mac Miller: Just started listening to him, but I really like "Donald Trump," "Knock Knock" and "Goosebumpz." A bit poppy, lyrically dumb and white boy silly, but still well done.

3. Lil B: Unlike most entrants on the list, Lil has a strong sense of humor and a willingness not to take himself so seriously, particularly on standout tracks like "I'm Paris Hilton," "California Boy," and "Barbiie Girl," and, to a lesser extent, "Wonton Soup."

4. Yelawolf: There's a lot of potential here. I really liked the menace of "Pop the Trunk," and "I Just Wanna Party," "Let's Roll," and "Daddy's Lambo" all caught my attention. Definitely will listen to more.

5. Cyhi The Prynce: Prince has some impressive writing credits and guest appearances, but is a little short on his own original songs, although his flow on songs like "Sideways" and "Far Removed" is pretty strong.

6. Meek Mill: Man I hate when the first song I hear someone on involves Rick Ross, as does Mill's "Ima Boss," which is totally forgettable. Much better without Ross is "Dreams and Nightmares" which is a great song. "Levels," with too many lines I've heard before, is somewhere in between.

7. Diggy Simmons: I gather that Diggy has a very high opinion of himself, maybe higher than the rest of this list, which is saying something. I can't say as I agree with him, though. His flow isn't weak, and his voice is somewhat original, but what is he saying? Same old stuff on tracks like "Fall Down" and "You Got Me Now."

8. Big K.R.I.T.: Well, he at least gets some great guests on songs like "Country Shit" and "Money on the Floor," but nothing in either song stands out to me and I'll have to listen more to figure out whether or not he's any good.

9. Fred Tha Godson: I don't really have anything bad to say about "Doing My Thing" and "Work," but I don't really have anything positive to say, either.

10. YG: Really, really dull. Songs like "Snitches Ain't" and "You Broke" could've been written by a crap rap music song generator and while "Toot It and Boot It" sounds a lot better, the name is "Toot It and Boot It."

11. Lil Twist: On "Turn't Up," Twist gets a great guest appearance from Busta that clearly outshines the young rapper. On "Love Affair," you have the opposite situation, where Lil Wayne comes in to suck things up a bit. Twist has a similar voice to Wayne, but he's not as lazy. After listening to "New Money," though it seems the highlight is the Busta Rhymes appearance.


1. Macklemore: Maybe the most successful single and album of any of the freshmen ever, he's already one of my favorite rappers.

2. Hopsin: I didn't think anyone would beat out Danny Brown for second on this list, but after hearing songs like Hopsin's "Ill Mind" series (particularly 4 & 5), it wasn't that close. Hopsin has a lot to say and a lot of very cool ways to say it.

3. Danny Brown: Just started listening to him, but "Radio Song," "Grown Up," "Black Brad Pitt" and several others have already been in heavy rotation for me.

4. Iggy Azalea: She's trying a bit to hard to be one of the guys, but she isn't exactly failing on songs like "My World" and "Work," which are good songs.

5. Don Trip: He's not exceptionally different than anyone else, but he's more honest and songs like "Letter to My Son" and "Rep My Hood" are worth a listen.

6. Roscoe Dash: "All the Way Turnt Up" made me almost immediately want to turn it off, but "Good Good Night," was much better. Still a little bit too similar to everything else out there, but he has some potential and I might listen to more.

7. Machine Gun Kelly: Not a lot of his stuff is freely available online, but "Alice in Wonderland" is a promising start. The beat is somewhat original and his flow is pretty technically difficult.

8. Kid Ink: "Money and Power" and "Hell and Back" are similar enough in title and sound to make me not particularly interested in listening to much more.

9. French Montana: Apparently, after writing the hook to "Ain't Worried 'Bout Nothing," French Montana wasn't worried about writing anything else, as the song only has 16 bars that don't mention all of the hook. If you take out lines that also have the word "nothing" in them, there isn't even a full verse in the whole song. That really, really didn't make me want to listen to anything else he wrote.

10. Future: At the beginning of "Karate Chop," Future uses autotune to talk about how real he is. Then Lil' Wayne comes in. Then Future uses that lazy-ass flow that I hate with a passion. Then I was done with him.


1. Schoolboy Q: What I've heard so far, I love. "Collard Greens" is one of my favorite songs right now.

2. Action Bronson: I love his voice and his delivery, but I haven't heard a lot of truly great tracks from him, beyond "East Bound and Down," which is amazing.

3. Ab-Soul: "Terrorist Threats," "A Rebellion" and "The Book of Soul" were all in my rotation, although none of them quite made my hall of fame.

4. Angel Haze: Listened to her for the first time today and "New York" and "Werkin' Girls" went straight into my rotation. Her voice and flow are great and the production's even better.

5. Joey Bada$$: "Waves" is growing on me and leaves me wanting a bit more, but I haven't heard the other track that I'm gonna listen to a lot.

6. Trinidad James: "All Gold Everything" is pretty solid, but "One More Molly" could've been written by anyone else on this list. Probably better done, too.

7. Logic: I listened to "Young Sinatra II" and it was nice, but it didn't make me fall in love.

8. Dizzy Wright: Seems to be a bit familiar, might even be biting his style. "Cant Trust'em" sounds pretty good, but it also sounds like deja vu. Pretty sure Kanye said "don't let me get in my zone" first.

9. Travi$ Scott: "Upper Echelon" is not in the upper echelon. And can we really, really stop using dollar signs for letters? Please?

10. Kirko Bangz: Am I supposed to stay awake during "Drank In My Cup"? Very hard to do.

11. Chief Keef: "Love Sosa" isn't a terrible song. It's not really a good one, either. And it's all down hill from there.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Meant to Be" (With Footnotes)

Here is the tenth in my series of lyrical examinations of the songs of my debut mixtape, "Core Nerd!"

As I say in the song Liquid Thunder, "My rhymes are so dense you're gonna need footnotes." Here they are...

This time, for the song "Meant to Be."

This was one of the last songs written for the album and one of the last songs I fully wrote in Tallahassee. It was a straightforward message song that fits in my category of songs that have a very definitive poetic structure. Some people don't like that structure as much, thinking it too repetitive, and considering that I do it more than once, they probably have a bit of a point. But I do really like the specific list of "dos" and "don'ts" listed here and the overall message it sends, so I included it in the first mixtape.

We're not all meant to be a parent
We're not all meant to give our consent
We're not all meant to be a spouse
We're not all meant to own a house

Messages in these four lines: 1. Parenthood isn't for everyone, despite what societal pressures say. 2. Some of us aren't meant to just go with the flow and accept what society tells us to do, some of us are supposed to fight back. 3. Much like marriage, parenthood isn't for everyone. 4. The third in the opening trifecta of what a "good" American is supposed to do. But some of us don't want to and shouldn't become homeowners. We don't all have to dream the same dreams and live the same lives, and we shouldn't.

We're not all meant to join the trends
We're not all meant to break or bend
We're not all meant to wear a uniform
We're not all meant to hide from the storm

Messages in these four lines: 1. Just because something is popular doesn't make it valid. 2. Some of us in life will end up losing because we refused to give in. That may hurt us personally, but it paves the way for future successes by others. 3. Uniforms are never given out for the benefit of the individual. They benefit the organization, if anyone. If we recognize that, sometimes it's better to resist that conformity. 4. The safe bet is to stay inside and bundle up when the storm comes. But there are good things in some of those storms and their are always opportunities for greatness during trying times.

We're not all meant to wear a nametag
We're not all meant to salute your flag
We're not all meant to follow the leader
We're not all meant to be mind readers

Messages in these four lines: 1. Jobs with nametags usually suck. Those of us that have figured out what we want to do and are willing to work hard for it shouldn't be forced to work those jobs. 2. A flag is a very sketchy thing to have allegiance for, while a country is only marginally better. Loyalty is for human beings who have earned it, not abstract concepts. 3. While it's true that we do need some people to follow leaders when we are trying to change the world for the better, we're usually better off with more people trying to be those leaders than we usually have. 4. Communication is one of the biggest problem areas we face in society, where people get mad at others who can't read their mind or anticipate their wants and needs. The reality is that its incumbent upon us to express our desires, not upon others to magically pick up on them.

We're not all meant to do what we're told
We're not all meant to be bought and sold
We're not all meant to act our age
We're not all meant to hold back our rage

Messages in these four lines: 1. Those who speak out against unjust authority are amongst the true heroes in society. 2. We're all marketed to constantly and pressured to sell ourselves out, it takes courage to resist. 3. People telling us to "act our age" is just another way for them to control us. The way I'm "supposed" to act is however I want to act. 4. "Anger is a gift," says Rage Against the Machine, and when injustice is in front of us, anger is the only valid response.

What are we meant to be
What are we meant to see
What are we meant to say
What are we gonna do today

The chorus is meant to ask the questions that the rest of the song is answering. I'm asking these questions first person, but they are questions we should all be asking first person, on a regular basis.

We're not all meant to watch the Superbowl
We're not all meant to jump in the fox hole
We're not all meant to eat a Big Mac
We're not all meant to earn the 20-year plaque

Messages in these four lines: 1. I personally am a sports fan, but I've seen too many people be ridiculed or pressured for not paying attention to games played by adults. 2. We frequently put military service at the top of our list of heroes, yet there are many other forms of heroes who deserve no less attention than our soldiers. 3. It's easy and cheap to eat a fast food diet. There's no standard by which it is good for you, though. 4. The day-to-day, 9-to-5 job lifestyle works for some, but it doesn't work for many others. A lot of us are better off looking for a different way to approach life.

We're not all meant to own a dog
We're not all meant to live in a fog
We're not all meant to wear a tie
We're not all meant to float on till we die

Messages in these four lines: 1. Some of us just aren't dog people and we don't need as much of the condescension that dog people give to non-dog people. 2. Actually, none of us are, but too many of us do. 3. Jobs with ties aren't for everyone. 4. The reference here is not at all a dig at Modest Mouse, whom I like quite a bit, but is a reference to taking a more active role in your own destiny.

We're not all meant to live in a small town
We're not all meant to always back down
We're not all meant to stay in one place
We're not all meant to date only one race

Messages in these four lines: 1. I personally hate small towns and small town values and think they hurt the world more than help it. 2. Some of us are meant to fight for what we believe in. 3. While there are some virtues to living your entire life in one place, it seems to me that moving around makes you a better, smarter, more well-rounded person. 4. There should be no boundaries on whom consenting adults want to date.

We're not all meant to pray to your God
We're not all meant to live on Cape Cod
We're not all meant to shop at Wal-Mart
We're not all meant to play a bit part

Messages in these four lines: 1. Religion is not for everyone and tolerance is necessary both towards other religions, but also towards the non-religious. 2. While wealth has its privileges, it's hardly a positive goal in and of itself. 3. Wal-Mart isn't great for anyone except its owners, although many people are sucked in by the low prices, not understanding the harm those low prices do to other human beings. 4. The world needs more superstars, even if those superstars are only so on small stages.

What are we meant to be
What are we meant to see
What are we meant to say
What are we gonna do today

The chorus again.

We are all meant to have free thought
We are all meant to foil the plot
We are all meant to knock the walls down
We are all meant to become a proper noun

Messages in these four lines: 1. One of the most important things people can do is learn to think for themselves. 2. Someone is always trying to do you or your friends and family or your society some kind of harm. How can they be stopped and what role do you or I play in that? 3. Literal walls are often important and serve valid purposes. Many metaphorical walls don't, they just block progress. 4. Do something in life that makes your name worthy of an entry in Wikipedia.

We are all meant to hop the globe
We are all meant to use our frontal lobe
We are all meant to push the limits
We are all meant to make the pivot

Messages in these four lines: 1. Travel is one of the most important things you can do to expand your mind. 2. Thinking and using one's brain is vital for the world to improve. 3. Most limits we face, even if they are self-imposed, are put there to stop us from succeeding, so we must bust through them. 4. Change is a vital part of life. If you don't change, you stagnate and die. But be careful to change for the better.

We are all meant to expand our minds
We are all meant to taste the wine
We are all meant to dance in the rain
We are all meant to do it again

Messages in these four lines: 1. 2. 3. 4.

We are all meant to run the race
We are all meant for first place/last place
We are all meant to graduate
We are all meant to play with fate

Messages in these four lines: 1. Everyone's life has the potential to be a game-changer, but only if we try. 2. We are all going to have successes and failures in life, neither should be a final judgment on who we are. 3. If not from school (although that, too), we all should progress in wisdom through our lives and "graduate" from the school of life. Many of us don't. 4. Tempting fate is the only way to make massive changes that improve our own lives and the lives of others. Risk is necessary in order to get the better rewards.

What are we meant to be
What are we meant to see
What are we meant to say
What are we gonna do today

The chorus again.

We are all meant to be free
We are all meant to describe what we see
We are all meant to want equality
We are all meant to scream like a banshee

Messages in these four lines: 1. Freedom is the ultimate state a human being can exist in, and we should all have the chance to earn it. 2. Most things we see have some importance and it is our duty to reveal those important things to others. 3. There are many different types of equality, and we should steadfastly pursue equality, unless someone (i.e. a murder or child molester) has forfeited that right to equality. 4. It's not enough to just speak up when injustice happens, we mus cream loudly until it goes away.

We are all meant to help the poor
We are all meant to get up off the floor
We are all meant to break some ground
We are all meant to rebound and rebound

Messages in these four lines: 1. Society should be judged by how it deals with those at the bottom rungs of the ladder. 2. We will all be knocked down, we should be judged by how we respond to that. Those who get up off the floor and fight are more heroic than those who don't. 3. In whatever field it is, we should all strive to leave our mark. 4. Life is a constant struggle and battle and the measure of a person is how much they let hardships or obstacles prevent them from success.

We are all meant to tell our story
We are all meant to strive for glory
We are all meant to wow the crowd
We are all meant to speak real loud

Messages in these four lines: 1. Our story has implications and lessons for others, not just ourselves, so we have a duty to pass our story along. 2. Glory can be defined many different ways, but whatever way we personally define it, we should pursue it. 3. Those of us who are creative or good-hearted always have the possibility of surprising others in positive ways and we should strive to do so. 4. And when we do, we can't do it quietly.

We are all meant to be real odd
We are all meant to be real flawed
We are all meant to change the world
We are all meant to change the world

Messages in these four lines: 1. It's strange to want to change the world or create art or do anything notable. But those things are what are important. 2. Nobody is perfect, but those of us who learn from our mistakes get closer and closer every day. 3. Even if it's in a small way. 4. Seriously.

What are we meant to be
What are we meant to see
What are we meant to say
What are we gonna do today

What are we meant to be
What are we meant to see
What are we meant to say
What are we gonna do today

The chorus two more times.

"Camp," Childish Gambino (HHES Review)

Here's my review of the Childish Gambino album "Camp," using the Hip Hop Evaluation System (HHES).

"Outside" is a strange way to start out the album. It's not a bad song, far from it, it's just not the typical song to start off a hip hop album, particularly one by a popular actor. It's a deeply introspective track where Gambino talks about peeing his pants in school as a kid. I like how revealing he is, but this seems more like a end-of-the-album track, not the lead.

"Fire Fly" is a great song, and yet still sounds a bit off in the sequence. The hook and the guest vocals here are both great and this song really goes into Gambino's ability to provide masterful wordplay and great references. The backing track is also pretty great as well.

"Bonfire" is the song that got me into Gambino in the first place. It really is just simply one of the hardest banging tracks by any artist in the last decade. Both musically and lyrically it is quite ahead of most of what's being produced these days. It's pure nerdcore, but at the same time it's a hard song that any rapper who respects talent would have to appreciate. And, as "street" and "gangsta" as other MCs are, there are few lines in any song delivered any way that hit harder than the "human centipede" and "Casey Anthony" lines in this song.

"All the Shine" is a pretty awesome track as well, opening up about Gambino's music career and the trials and tribulations he's faced based on his style of rap. Very good flow, revealing lyrics, a good backing track. Not much to complain about.

"Letter Home" is a brief aside that gives a pretty good look into Gambino's heart, once again showing that he has a way of approaching lyrics that a lot of other rappers don't. This isn't groundbreaking, but it's another snippet of information that reveals the bigger picture of Childish Gambino.

"Heartbeat" is one of the few rap songs about relationships that isn't a ballad and totally works on every level. Gambino sings a pretty powerful hook that it's hard not to get addicted to. On top of that, the lyrics describe a relationship that is complicated and unsimilar to any other depicted in any song I'm aware of. Pretty much like Gambino himself.

"Backpackers" isn't the best song on the album, but it continues things well enough to sustain the momentum that peaked with "Heart Beat." Another song taking on critics of his music/personality, it is worth a few listens.

"L.E.S." is the first drag on the album. Up to this point, things are mostly upbeat and fast-paced and this not only doesn't fit that, it seems to slow the momentum the album had up to this point.

"Hold You Down" is the second track in a row that doesn't quite match up to the earlier tracks. It's not bad, but it does seem to be getting a bit repetitive at this point. Lyrically, it's impressive, but the sound just doesn't transcend.

"Kids" helps get things back on track with one of the better beats on the album. Gambino's imperfect singing makes the hook more original and catchy than it might otherwise be.

"You See Me" really brings things back with the best beat on the album and some of Gambino's best wordplay and flow. The song is very technically difficult and switches styles frequently enough to catch just about anyone's attention, even if its racial and gender politics is awkward at best.

"Sunrise" is a fun song that has some great lyrics and wordplay in the verses, but probably could've done with a better hook and maybe a loss of some of the jarring backing vocals.

"That Power" is an interesting end to the album, with a initial track that is pretty similar to a number of other tracks on the album, but continuing well past that "song" into a lengthy monologue from Gambino that is loaded with his personality and entertaining, showing that Gambino is a good storyteller.

Overall Analysis

Flow: 10. I love the way Gambino flows. He's probably my favorite rapper right now in terms of the way words come out of his mouth.

Lyrics: 9. Gambino does have a mysterious problem with slipping into stale misogynistic lines from time to time that show a laziness that he doesn't show anywhere else. If it weren't for that, this album would be perfect from a lyrical standpoint.

Message: 9. This album is really about Gambino's personality and the things that make him tic. In that vein, it's pretty amazing. I get a really good feel for the person these lyrics are about.

Technical: 10. Gambino really is trying to do something with the way he raps and he succeeds almost all the time.

Production: 8. It's hard to complain about any of the sounds on this album. They aren't all perfect, but they are close enough to stand up to repeated listens.

Versatility: 7. While there isn't a ton of versatility from song to song, there is so much within the individual songs that

Collaborators: 7. There really aren't too many besides producers. This makes a lot of sense in context, though, since the album is deeply personal and since everyone else does so many songs with guests, he's making a bit of a statement by not having anybody dilute his personal story.

History: 6. Not a lot of history is very obvious here, but there are quire a few pop culture references and some other nods towards what came before.

References: 10. Gambino makes a lot of current and clever references that are both hilarious and powerful.

Originality: 10. If anything else like this exists, I'm not aware of it.0

Total Score: 86. This album is loaded with potential and in quite a few places, it more than exceeds that potential. Gambino is a rapper to watch.