Record Review

Outkast, UGK, 8 Ball and MGJ, Scarface, and David Banner: what do those artist have in common? Besides being from the south, they’ve all engraved their names as legends in Southern hip-hop. What do these artist have in common in BIG K.R.I.T? Just one listen to his latest mixtape, Return of 4eva and you’ll know right away that he’s not far from making that list.

With 21 tracks, Return of 4eva is a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the latest trap, and snap production. Songs like “Sookie Now” (featuring David Banner), “Time Machine” (featuring Chamillionaire), and “Country Shit” (featuring Ludacris) proves that not only can Big K.R.I.T can hold his own against these hip-hop veterans, he’s also a great producer.

All in all Return of 4eva is a great mixtape that is a definate must have. – Joshua Fountain


“Hometown Hero”

Imagine this: you’re in distress. Out of nowhere comes the Ninja Funk Orchestra. You can’t understand how this espionage knew your affliction, but their mission drew them to this moment. Their array of weapons seems few, but how they use them – vast, as if the message to be delivered has never been interpreted that way before. The prolific background of music ideals, morals and thoughts have spurred on these four young souls to become masters of their craft. Elements of Jazz, Rock, Funk, DubStep, Drum & Bass, Electronica and Experimental are all infused. One wonders how it works, but with Toronto’s NFO, fusion is just a meager term.

What makes their sound so definitive is not just from what they play, but how they deliver their way of life though the instrumentation. “Fist” brings a declaration of their presence while “(Theme from) Thunderbrawl” states their mission and that they are on the move to fulfill it. “Shadow” is about their stealth journey (like a true Ninja), “10,000 Snakes” is a mindset, speaking that they do not take their purpose lightly and “(Oh Baby, I’m So Beyond) Drifting through Space Without You” speaks truth – the more involved you become in your mastery and mission, the more lonely you become. Track by track they show their levels and how to best quantify them, not only delivering a song, but an experience.

Listening to the NinjaTek on CD is already an augmentation, but watching them perform live is like being carried to another dimension you never knew existed, coming back to Earth with this linger and enlightened sense of purpose to get back into that dimension. – Camillie Leung

Live on CHRY 105.5: 

Foo Fighters fit on the top shelf of modern alternative rock music today and Wasting Light, their seventh album, is their best one yet. All of the band’s previous six albums went platinum or gold. But only the first two were represent the grungy alternative rock band for which the band garnered mass recognition. Wasting Light is the first real evidence that the group are regaining their original momentum by going back to the grungy garage sound. Returning to fold after years on the periphery, Pat Smear’s punk rock guitar sound is clearly heard on stand out track “White Limo.” Other highlights include “I Should Have Known” and “Dear Rosemary” for which the band collaborated with legendary Hüsker Dü and Sugar guitarist Bob Mould and finds frontman Dave Grohl working with former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic for the first time in a decade and a half.

I have a lot of respect for the amount of work on the songwriting aspect of their career. This is the sound of a band going back to their roots to find a new groove in common ground. Wasting Light shows what the band are all about: making catchy modern day rock and roll for the long haired fans of the grunge scene grown up from the nineties. It also shows that the band is keeping their minds open by using new collaborations and ideas to maintain their image in the spotlight and appeal to even more fans. Wasting Light proves Foo Fighters are far from finished their musical journey. – Alejandro Espinoza

“White Limo”

Massillion? Where, who, what the heck is that? I had to Google that one. Turns out it’s a small city in Ohio, USA – a place with a strict work ethic. It’s also the place where up and coming rapper, Kyle Myricks, better known by his stage name, Stalley, was born and raised. Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Trunk Music) is Stalley’s third mixtape and pays homage to this blue collar town filled with steel factories. He left Massillion- he calls it the Milq – for New York City (the Honey) to give his music career an added push after plans to play college basketball failed, a decision he recounts on the “The Milq and Honey” featuring clips of random people talking about leaving Massillion over top of its old-school vibe.

Throughout the mixtape’s 16-tracks the sound of horns is made apparent.  That, along with a voice imbued with passion, allows for a rugged vibe that I can get used to. I love that Stalley can rhyme without making references to women as b-words and such. I instantly fell in love with “Slapp” because it samples Wiz Khalifa’s underground track “Spotlight,” a beat that bring chills down my spine. One thing I absolutely enjoy hearing is the fierceness of bass, and “Pound” and “She Hates Bass” (contrary to my feelings) kills it! The sound of the 808s pumping through my headphones is hypnotic and heartfelt.

“Tell Montez I Love Her” is my favourite and the most real song on Lincoln Ways Nights. In the first verse Stalley talks about his situation with his mother, who calls and tells him that she’s struggling financially back home. He feels horrible because he just spent money at the mall on unnecessary things. In an interview with The 330, Stalley says, “My mom is 60 years old and she just recently stopped working and not by choice, so it’s some hard times. Meanwhile, I’m here in New York and I’m living the dream. But when I go to stores and I shop, it’s hard for me . . . and it sucks that I can’t help.” While everything is going wrong, his mother is still proud of him, as a mother should, but he think otherwise. In the second verse, he sends a message out to his sister, who’s been absent in his life for three years now. He reminisces about their lives as children and congratulates her on her successes. He encourages also her to visit him and his children and ends it off by sending his love.

Stalley’s latest is the perfect marriage between old and new school that will officially put Massillion on the map. The fact that he’s not a rookie coming from a hip hop epicentre like Atlanta or Chicago makes him unique and quickly draws hip hop heads to him. With appearances on MTV’s Sucker Free and MTV Jams’ Mixtape Daily, Stalley is accumulating national status. If you want a free ride to Massillion, hop on the next thing smoking, and that is Lincoln Way Nights. –  Irene Boateng

“Slapp” ft. Rashad

On first glance, Regina Spektor seems pretty much like any other “folk” artist – a mild mannered singer referencing the environment and politics. But she’s so much more than that.

Her lyrics, which can be observant, blunt, funny, and nostalgic, don’t always match the musical sentiment as lines like “Sea is just the weather version of the skies” from “Folding Chair” or “Someone next door is fucking to one of my songs!” from new track “Bobbing for Apples” show. She looks at the world in unique ways,  pointing out things we didn’t notice even though we were all looking at the same thing.

Her latest release, Regina Spektor: Live in London, displays a nice selection of her catalogue, as well as three previously unreleased tracks: the aforementioned “Bobbing for Apples” as well as “Silly Eye Colour Generalizations,” and “Love, You are a Whore.” Her music is upbeat and she certainly isn’t using a voice machine to record her songs as her live performance displays. She sings wonderfully, but stays loyal to the sound found on the records. The only difference here is that it is recorded live from a stage and not in a studio. Overall I would consider “Live in London”  a nice capture of her music live. – Nicole Rubacha

“Folding Chairs”

There’s a common thirst among artists to become “the next big thing,” and J. Cole is an inspirational example of the quick route to fame and success, especially in his mix tape The Warm Up.

J. Cole keeps it original. He steps into the rap game still breaking it big without forgetting his roots or distilling his message.  On “Can I Live”  he visually tells a story of a friend witnessing and grieving over the death of his friend at the scene. When listening to this song you emotionally connect to his lyrics, and almost feel as if you’re there.  You’re able to hear and feel the significance of his storytelling within his lyrics.  The Warm Up doesn’t feel  like a mix tape because of how well put together J. Cole is musically as an artist.

He connects with his listeners through his music, word by word and beat by beat.  Listeners can tell and feel the difference between genuine and artificial production. Through his monologue he gives us insight into his life and dreams; he speaks in a tone so sincere and personal you feel as if he is speaking to you specifically, where you will find yourself break into goose bumps no matter how many times his tracks are replayed.

J. Cole’s music is soulful and strong; lyrically, he touches not only our hearts, but also his upbringing in North Carolina. The poverty and hopelessness that affected his community is expressed through his tracks “Can I Live” and “World Is Empty” while  progression, hope, happiness permeate  “It Won’t Be Long” and “I Get Up” . His music and lyrics encapsulates not just who J. Cole is as a rapper, but who Jermaine is as an artist and a person. – Chaunice Brooks

The Warm Up Trailer:

Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, is a new 20 year old Toronto R&B artist who has got a lot of notice as a result of his support from Drake who signed him to his record label. It is quite astonishing that less than 2 months ago no one knew the fresh and unique new artist.  That is, until the release of his new mixtape which was available for free download online.

The tape, House of Balloons, is unlike most other music, and is considered to be under the genre of R&B with a hint of soul.  It has a relaxing, and almost hypnotizing vibe to it that has captured the attention of many people. House of Balloons is a remarkably confident and bold debut as a result of its unusual selection of instrumentals.  For starters, the track “What You Need”: with Burial-style vocal samples, techno scrape, and a sticky pop chorus, is far from your average R&B singer and it’s the diversity of this entire mixtape that stands out for me. All the songs on House of Balloons worked out for Tesfaye; he has a great voice.

I’m not a huge fan of mellow songs – I prefer my music up beat, and energetic. However, the unique sound of House of Balloons has persuaded me to be more receptive to this kind of music. I definitely think that he will make it far in the music industry and be another great Toronto artist. – Fana Abay
Download House of Balloons here.

“The Party After the Party”

Sense aka Newkid from Brampton, Ontario has climbed the ladder of progression to this present day. When asked about his influences on his craft he gives a strict “I don’t categorize music” but instead mixes a variety of styles to form what he calls a masterpiece, and skilful expression. Sense says “You have to use your talents to express yourself, because it’s a gift that you’ve been given.”

Sense relates his skill to the different layers of our generations. There is an older generation of artists like KRS-One and Rakim, but there’s a middle generation as well. This middle generation, represented by Tupac and Biggie, saw youth growing up on the brink of musical warfare and peaceful resistance. The new generation of artists like Fabulous and 50 Cent bring an alternative message in their songs. Sense places himself in the middle generation with his soulful swagger and hard gritty lyrics. His latest mixtape, Lord of the Rings, is his fourth project in his young career.

Sense has shown improvement as an artist in his transitioning from hardcore to more commercial hip-hop. He displays the ups and downs of the musical rollercoaster but sticking to his roots he has stated that he “is not conforming to the status quo, because leaders don’t follow the pack but venture on their own.”

Lord of the Kings has a lot of highlights –  there are tracks for every genre and age group. It also establishes Sense as not a rapper outside the mainstream. As for his fans he has come to the conclusion that as long as he knows himself, his fan base will love him for being himself. Sense really wants to make a difference in the industry and create a grounded environment for his listeners. – Herve

“On the Move”

Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj’s debut studio album, after releasing three mixtapes earlier in her career, is the highest selling debut album for a female rapper, ever. To compare and contrast Pink Friday with her mixtapes, I would have to say that she’s become more commercial, in that she has changed the her content, image and music so it’s more attractive, fun, and crazy to a wider audience. From the beginning to the end I enjoy this newer Nicki Minaj sound. One of the most perfectly placed song on the album is “Dear Old Nicki”, in which Minaj raps about why she’s embraced the newer Nicki Minaj as opposed to the old version of herself and her music.  Personally I think that Pink Friday has no lowlights – Minaj is a great female rapper who works very hard. A lot of Hip-Hop critics insist that she’s not as brilliant as many of her fans believe.  But that’s because they can’t accept how different her music is from the rest of the pack, and how versatile she is as not only a rapper, but as an artist in general. – Fana Abay

“Right Thru Me ft. Drake”


Great music, regardless of the genre, is best when it is created by an artist with immense skill or an important or significant message. Great music is also remembered decades after it was first recorded and released.

More Or Les’ new album, Brunch with a Vengeance has no significant message whatsoever. And forget decades after – I couldn’t remember the majority of the tracks minutes after listening to them. Brunch with a Vengeance is More Or Les’ third album and the tracks are supposed to be a 19-song compilation of his complaints or “pet peeves,” including dirty bathrooms, contemporary fashion, bad clubs and bad hygiene.

More Or Les and I actually share a lot of the same gripes, but a 19 track album soley based around them seems unnecessary. As a Canadian and a hip-hop fan, I like to support and stand behind Canadian MCs. But More or Les’ rhymes were pretty weak on the majority of the songs. Good beats tend to stick in your head; you can regularly hear me in the hallways of my school humming “Ain’t Nuthin but a G Thang” or “Dre Day” because the beats are orchestrated so that they stick with you. None of the beats on Brunch with a Vengeance stuck with me.

More or Les lacks skill and he fails to convey an important message with Brunch with a Vengeance and that is why it is not great music. – Brandon Marcus