Astonish is a veteran hip-hop artist from the north side of Chicago. His fourth solo project, To Whom It May Concern, dropped in the fall of 2016.
To Whom It May Concern is a very dope album and very personal. While it is Astonish’s fourth solo project, it feels like his first. It is obvious that he took time with this project — that it is important to him. The entire project has the vibe of what I think most artists want for their first album. The project feels like Astonish dedicated his life to those twelve tracks and he’s introducing himself to the world — although he’s an established eight year veteran.
Astonish packed To Whom It May Concern full of so much raw emotion and passion. I don’t usually compare hip-hop artists but listening to this project reminded me of listening to Blu & Exile’s Below The Heavens because of the soulful beats along with a perfect blend of melody and hardcore rapping.
The choice of “Get Away” as the first video off the To Whom It May Concern wasn’t surprising because the song was also featured on Astonish’s 2015 project, The Who Tape. Even though it wasn’t surprising, it was definitely the right choice.
“Get Away” is a dope track and I wouldn’t be surprised if it guided Astonish into the direction of where To Whom It May Concern went. Throughout the project he seems to be battling with several emotions and looking for an escape or for some help. All of those feelings are also conveyed on “Get Away”.
As dope as “Get Away” is as a standalone track, the video somehow made it better. The plot of the video has Astonish in a situation where he can get him and his girl into a better life but his paranoia gives him the idea to assure his girl of safety and happiness in the event that the opportunity he took comes back to bite him in the ass — which it does.
As grim as it sounds, I think death was an underlying concept throughout To Whom It May Concern. The title itself sounds like how someone would start their suicide note. Death makes a real appearance on the project as Astonish’s late friend — JDott Trife — is featured on the track, “Ride“. I think the end of the “Get Away” video furthermore confirms my thoughts as while Astonish’s girl in the video “got away” to live a happy life while Astonish also “got away” in a more permanent way.
December 9th will be the two year anniversary of J. Cole’s critically-acclaimed album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. What better way for Cole to show appreciation to his fans for making 2014 Forest Hills Drive a double-platinum album than by dropping another album?
Surely, Cole must know that this is an highly anticipated project and expectations are through-the-roof. In the two years between 2014 Forest Hills Drive and 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole has kept himself busy by touring and hitting the stage at multiple festivals. Cole has blessed fans with new bars on rare occasions like “Jermaine’s Interlude” on DJ Khaled’s Major Key album and “Night Job” on Dreamville artist, Bas’ Too High To Riot.
I am truly hoping that Cole gifts his listeners with the log-waited Kendrick Lamar collaboration. Lamar was featured on Cole’s Born Sinner album but he was just on the hook of “Forbidden Fruit”. Just over a year ago — on Black Friday — Cole and Lamar both released separate tracks as Cole rapped over Lamar’s “Alright” and Lamar rapped over Cole’s “A Tale of 2 Citiez”.
Pre-order 4 Your Eyez Only here!
“Church, Barbershop, bottle I got from the liquor store on Cicero. I aint 21 but he didn’t know”
Let’s cut to the chase, this is a gem!
Saba and Noname linked up again and made something magical. Saba perfectly painted a picture of Chicago’s westside on the hook with mentions of funeral homes, barber shops, liquor stores, chalk outlines, and more from the perspective of a quiet teen growing up in such an environment.
“Fuck who you think I sound like I’m a legend in the making like the director’s cut of I Am Legend“
This track is such a fun listen, as Saba plays around with his flows and clever punchlines. One of the best elements of Saba’s delivery is his energy and how fast he can become so animated and aggressive then instantly fall back into a laid back zone. No one else in hip-hop is doing that as effortlessly and smooth as Saba is, so I understand why he hates the comparisons.
The production by Cam O’bi cannot go unrecognized, this instrumental is simply beautiful. The instrumental fits the traditional sound Saba and Noname both seem to go for, something peaceful that will allow the listener to pay more attention to what is being said.
My favorite part of the instrumental is the vocals provided by Akenya, another Chicago artist.
This track got me even more excited and anxious for October 27th, when Bucket List Project drops!
WHAT’S THE MOVE, GROOVER?
Jae Haze has already impressed by dominating tracks on his own but it’s even more impressive that he’s able to hold his own on a track with some of Chicago’s best up-and-coming artists.
The duo of Chris Spencer (Vic Spencer & Chris Crack) along with solo artists, D2G and Pivot’s MFn Melo all brought the heat for the “Groover Remix” but Haze was not out-shined by any means. In fact, Haze made the bold decision of putting himself last on the track.
The original version of “Groover” was listeners’ first real introduction to Haze. His delivery, confidence, and punchlines left many listeners wanting more. Lucky for the listeners, Haze has been serving them up a steady diet of music ever since.
The guest artists on this remix are a perfect fit because on the original version of “Groover,” Haze said “this is a brief introduction to some of the most thoroughest lyrical content out of Chicago, now let it settle in.” So it was only right for Haze to feature some of the best lyricists in Chicago for the remix.
“Are you trying to wear that black dress to my address? I got a bed, no frame, just a mattress.”
Joey Purp is a Chicago rapper from the Savemoney crew (which includes Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Towkio, and a host of other artists). Purp released his breakout project, iiiDrops, in May of 2016 and received much acclaim for the project.
“Girls @” is the first single off iiiDrops, it is a feel-good song — different sound from everything else on iiiDrops — and the video matches the vibe of the track. Joey, Chance, and friends seem to have had a great time shooting this video. I guess when Joey and Chance were asking “where the girls at?”, the question got answered because they have a large/diverse group of women in this video.
If you aren’t familiar with Joey Purp, I wouldn’t judge him off of this track.Even though I enjoy “Girls @”, it doesn’t showcase Purp’s talent. I believe Purp is the most lyrical rapper in the Savemoney crew, and that will become apparent if you listen to iiiDrops.
Jae Haze shows off his game-face in this visual for his single “Numbers” off of his upcoming project; No Idea. This track is packed full of punchlines and metaphors as Haze talks about how his hustle and hunger separates him from the competition.
Haze offers several clever basketball references on “Numbers” and as a visual aid to those references, Haze is shown rocking an impressive collection basketball jerseys in this video.
Those jerseys include: Fredro Starr’s jersey from Sunset Park, Will Smith’s high school jersey from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Jesus Shuttlesworth’s Lincoln High School jersey from He Got Game.
One of the many standout lines on the track is the opener: “I’m 23 in that Boston Garden, they can’t guard me”, so it was only right for Haze to pay homage to Jordan in this video. There is an autographed Michael Jordan Bulls jersey displayed as Haze raps the opening line and Haze can be seen wearing a 2003 Michael Jordan All-Star jersey.
Stay on the lookout for Jae Haze’s upcoming project; No Idea, set to drop in the fall of 2016.
“I’m 100 like Wilt, I do 100 on 290 just to see how it’ll feel.”
Something must be in the water in Chicago because there is an unbelievably large variety of great music coming out of the city.
R.A.N. Nation artist, Jae Haze is another example of the quality of hip-hop being made in Chicago. Haze is set to drop his project, No Idea, in the fall of 2016 and until the project releases he has been feeding the streets with a healthy serving of his music — giving listeners a better understanding of what to expect from him.
R.A.N. Nation has already made noise in 2016 with the release of Weasel Sims’ Prey 4 Paris, which Jae Haze was featured on.
“Numbers” is Haze’s latest track release, the track is full of energy. You can’t listen to the track without mean-mugging. Haze is rapping with so much hunger in his voice and each verse is packed with hard-hitting punchlines.
The biggest standout from this track is the concept of how he’s “doing numbers” and starting both verses off with an attention-grabbing basketball metaphor. To start the first verse Haze compares himself to Michael Jordan dropping 63 on the Celtics: “I’m 23 in that Boston Garden, they can’t guard me.” The second verse kicks of referencing Kobe Bryant’s historic 81-point game against the Raptors: “I’m 24 in ’06 right on Toronto’s floor.” That Kobe reference was particularly hard in my opinion because he revisited Toronto a few bars later: “My whole squad A1, sophisticated gangsters. I aint no Drake but I’m raising the stakes, just thank me later.”
I’m anxious to hear the full-length project from Jae Haze, he’s reminiscent of when gangster-rap had lyrics.
“Alton Sterling’s on my conscious, need a moment of silence.”
L.A. VanGogh is definitely hard at work this year. He dropped a project in early 2016 in collaboration with DJ/music producer Ambi Lyrics. The duo joined forces as “safeNsound” to release safeNsound presents: L.A. VanGogh — a well crafted seven-track project. VanGogh seems to be doing a great job at gaining recognition despite being just one of many up-and-coming hip-hop artists from Chicago.
VanGogh even referenced the large Chicago hip-hop scene in one of my favorite lyrics from “No Service”: “I was listening to Bella Bahhs in a Chevy car, going hella hard, with some Lil Bibby and some G-Herb. Smoking Reptar, that’s a green monster. I got Wal-Marts in my repertoire. What’s that mean? That means I got a whole lot in store.”
With his aggressive delivery, playful flows, and clever metaphors, VanGogh is truly a joy to listen to. In his young career, VanGogh has shown that he is capable to flow over any instrumental and stay true to himself.
This latest track release from VanGogh shows his ability to be creative with his flows and clever with his metaphors while having fun with it. “No Service” is a fun listen. The beat bounces, the hook is catchy, and VanGogh adds to the energy of the song with his verses despite the mostly aggressively competitive (somewhat cocky) content.
Rappers with similar abilities as L.A. VanGogh tend to box themselves in but L.A. VanGogh lives up to his “shpeshftr (shape-shifter)” identity by not allowing himself to be boxed in. He’s always aggressive, either with his content or with his delivery but so far in his career he has been able to seamlessly fit onto any instrumental he raps over and makes that sound his own.
If you are unfamiliar with Smino, I suggest you get your life in order. Besides his own projects (SICK SICK SICK EP and blkjuptr), Smino has really impressed with his guest appearances on his peers’ work. Smino’s most notable guest appearances were on Saba’s “World In My Hands” and Noname’s “Shadow Man”.
While being interviewed by Peter Rosenberg on Hot 97, Smino mentioned his verse on Noname’s “Shadow Man” is his favorite verse to-date because of the subject matter of the song. Smino went on to quote a line from his “Shadow Man” verse — coincidentally my favorite line from that verse: “Tippy toe on a tightrope. Leaning on green and it’s going to be a dice roll. I’m fiending for a feline who mindset’s like Afeni, I got Tupac’s for us. Gold on my gum-line, done got rich off my tongue.” That line is a perfect example of what Smino was referencing during the interview about him being just as much “ratchet” as he is “conscious”.
In the interview, Smino talked about social media (Twitter being his preference), his love for Chicago, and his musical influences (including music acts like: Dungeon Family, Ludacris, Nelly, and Kanye West.)
“I promise, I’m going to be here for awhile. Only if you let me and I’m lucky. From up here we can see over the clouds. Baby, what’s your preference? Do you love me?”
Saba just dropped “Symmetry,” his latest song off of his upcoming project — The Bucket List — on Zane Lowe’s Apple Music/Beats 1 Radio Show.
Saba has shown his songwriting versatility in the past — especially on “Whip (Areyoudown?)” off his 2014 project, Comfort Zone — but “Symmetry” is different, it’s a full-blown love ballad.
When I listen to songs like “Whip (Areyoudown?)” and “Symmetry” by Saba, I think about how much of an impact melody has on hip-hop today. But then I think about just how differently Saba approaches melody than other artists. Being a son of an R&B singer and a young fan of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony might be what makes Saba’s sound so unique. Saba doesn’t “harmonize” as much as most rappers today, it’s more like he’s simply rapping with a melody. And he’s doing it well.
I believe Saba is at his best being aggressive on the microphone with his ferocious flows but “Symmetry” is an example of how wide his range of artistry has grown since Comfort Zone. He refuses to be boxed in as an artist. And what’s scary is that he’s very much so still growing as an artist. The Bucket List is highly-anticipated with great expectations and I still would be surprised to be unimpressed with the project, whenever he chooses to release it.
Saba will be performing live at Lollapalooza on Friday, July 29th in Chicago.
Buy “Symmetry” on iTunes now!