Album Reviews

By: Solomon Etuk, and Neil MacAlister

Effected by Cozz

Los Angeles rapper Cozz’s new album serves as further proof that just about every artist on J. Cole’s Dreamville label is putting out more interesting music than the label founder himself. Effected is Cozz’s third release since signing to the label. While the hungry aggression of his early work has mellowed out a bit, there’s a sense of cohesion and maturity that makes Effected his most solid record to date.

     Not every track stands out, but Cozz certainly brings his best work to his sophomore album. The laid back “Badu,” the pure groove of “Bout It” and “VanNess,” the quintessentially west coast “Effected,” and the narrative-driven “Hustla’s Story” (featuring a typically excellent Kendrick verse) prove that Cozz is an impressive rapper with a diverse style. He could stand to experiment a little more in the future, and maybe bring back some of the pure energy that made his debut single “Dreams” such a hit, but Effected is nevertheless a consistently great album. – NM

Victory Lap by Nipsey Hussle

In recent years Crenshaw, LA’s Nipsey Hussle has been one of the strongest voices on the west coast. The unapologetically Crip-affiliated rapper has translated his gang lifestyle into a sound that’s as progressive as it is indebted to old school G-funk. While each successive project of his has been better than the last, Victory Lap feels like Nipsey Hussle at his peak. Everything from the writing, to the production, to the overall message shows the LA rapper exceeding (the already lofty) expectations for a modern west coast legend.

     Frequent collaborators YG, Buddy, and Dom Kennedy join impressive feature placements that include Kendrick Lamar, Puff Daddy, and Marsha Ambrosius — providing a plethora of talent to complement Hussle’s raps. “Dedication” and “Hussle & Motivate” are immediate standouts, but Victory Lap works best as a front-to-back tour-de-force. Whether it’s addressing political issues, or simply flexing his industry awareness and indelible position in the rap scene, this album is Nipsey at his best. – NM

Veteran by JPEGMAFIA

Baltimore-based JPEGMAFIA (Barrington Hendricks) — who is actually a US Air Force veteran — gives us a collection of interesting experimental hip-hop tracks in his fourth album, Veteran. Hendricks packs Veteran full of both satirical (dare I say, edgy), and serious political commentary. At times, Veteran’s edginess might be off putting, however, this album is carried by its unique production.

     “Real Nega” and “ Thug Tears” show off his impressive use of sampling; the tracks “1539 N. Calvert” and “I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies” get you lost in their glitchy production.  Hendricks mixes both old school hip hop one-liners, and impressively forward-thinking production in Veteran. He really proves his versatility in this album. It’s a refreshing sound for rap in 2018. Basically, if you like Death Grips, you’ll like this album. – SE

Little Dark Age by MGMT

MGMT breaks their five-year hiatus with their new comeback release, Little Dark Age. Many of the tracks on this album reflect on their rising and falling out of mainstream success — and how quickly both occurred. “Me and Michael” is a synth-pop ballad about pop-stars who steal an obscure song and become popular. The track is a satire on how MGMT felt about their success.

     In an interview with VICE News, MGMT said they always felt that they engaged in a “self-sabotage” of their band, not really caring about fame — heavily implying that their fall out of the mainstream was intentional. The lyrics “When you’re small/you don’t have very far to fall” in the track “When You’re Small” beautifully encompasses the sentiment that MGMT tries to get across: downsizing wasn’t a bad thing. Little Dark Age is a fun listen for both old and new fans, and is the start of a new MGMT. – SE