Drake gives away nearly $1 million in his new video for “God’s Plan”

Hip hop superstar Drake released a new video today for his latest single “God’s Plan,” which is currently #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and numerous R&B, Hip-Hop and Rap charts. At the beginning of the video, a caption states “The budget for this video was $996,631.90. We gave it all away. Don’t tell the label.” The video goes on to show Drake buying groceries for everyone in a supermarket, surprising random people on the street to whom he gives money, buying toys for kids at a mall, surprising a family with a new car, making donations to the Miami Fire Department, a women’s shelter, and more.  Within hours, multiple videos were made by others showing people’s reactions to the video.

While one could argue that it’s all for publicity, it was still a nice thing for Drake to do. It’s certainly money well-spent, generating more good will than simply a million-dollar’s worth of ads.

Here’s the official music video:

PROJECT – EP Review: “Purge”

Purge

I discovered Welsh rapper Project a few months ago when he contacted me about his new EP Purge. At the time, I had a huge backlog of reviews that I’d already committed to write, but at long last I’m finally getting around to reviewing Purge. I must state up-front that I find a lot of today’s rap and hip-hop music to be dull or uninspiring, but Project’s music is brilliant on every level.

Born Jake Brimble and based in Cardiff, Wales, Project draws inspiration from hip-hop artists such as Tech N9ne, Atmosphere, Macklemore and Hilltop Hoods. Melding sweeping orchestral instrumentals with bass-heavy hip hop beats and gritty riffs, he creates music that’s edgy and melodic, something I find incredibly appealing when it comes to hip-hop. He’s also an exceptional wordsmith, penning authentic and deeply personal lyrics that address relevant topics such as ambition, relationships, loss and substance abuse. With his nimble, rapid-fire rapping style, he delivers those lyrics with an energy and passion that’s electrifying.

Project

Project released his terrific debut EP Rectify in July 2015, which was well received by DJs, music critics and fans, and followed up with Purge, which dropped at the end of May. The EP features five tracks, all of which are excellent. The hard-hitting first track “Vocalise” perfectly exemplifies his dynamic music style. Opening with tinkling piano, xylophone and resonant strings, a strong bass-driven hip-hop beat soon kicks in, and Project raps the poetic lyrics that speak to his struggle with making it as a rapper:

You see I need that sweet release
So give me a greasy beat with a fat-ass bassline
Now that’s my kind of treat
Don’t give a fuck about what anyone else is doing
I’ll just keep on spewing verse after verse til my brain feels like I’m abusing it.
I’m losing it. I just cant stop
All the voices in my head are talking about is hip-hop
I’m rhyming in my sleep when I should be counting sheep
Has this shit gone too deep, am I a broken fucking freak?

The instrumentals become more complex as the song progresses, with scratching added, along with chorale-like backing choruses that he heavily uses to dramatic effect on most of the tracks. Those soaring choruses are expertly blended with haunting strings, electric guitar and a thumping bass line on “Him” and “Energy,” the latter of which also features a marching band-style drumbeat and some lovely piano keys in the outro.

Project’s skillful use of disparate and contrasting instruments and technique is beautifully represented on the superb “Aftermath.” The track starts with a mournful church-like organ riff and delicate xylophone, then explodes with nu-metal guitar riffs and thumping bass. Backed by an ominous chorus, Project’s fast rapping really showcases his amazing vocal dexterity. The song lyrics seem to address the replacement of his identity as a person with that of his rapper persona:

I put the pistol to my head, the moment we said goodbye
I pulled the trigger even quicker and to my surprise
I stood up took my pulse but I was still alive
Jake was no where to be seen. I’m the only one survived

The dark video shows Project singing the song inside an abandoned graffiti-covered church.

A standout on the EP is “Midnight Rush,” a powerful and rather painful song about acting in a careless and self-destructive manner while under the influence of alcohol that results in tragedy :

I got a chip on my shoulder, better knock it off
‘Cause if I push too hard I’ll have to pay the cost
I can’t see through the flames of froth
I shoulda took my chances when the coin was tossed
Ah fuck it, let’s have another ball
What’s the worst that can happen when you hit the bomb?
If I’m gonna get pushed then I’ll just push back
Talk shit get punched maybe catch a bitch slap
That’s a given, but I’m invincible

The track is quite melodic, with an R&B feel and soulful backing vocals by Sophie Adams.

 

Purge is an exceptional sophomore effort from Project that provides further proof of his amazing talents as a composer, lyricist and vocalist. He’s currently working on his third EP, which he states will take more of an organic musical approach, and I can’t wait to hear it.

Connect with Project:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes

Album Review: TWINTWO – “Twinwho?”

UK hip-hop artist Twintwo is one of my favorite rappers. I love his honest, thoughtful song lyrics and wonderful vocal delivery, especially given his British accent that I find quite charming. Hailing from Yorkshire and born Robert Winterburn, the hard-working singer/songwriter records and produces all his own songs. He released a terrific five-track EP Mr. Winterburn in 2016, which I reviewed on this blog exactly one year ago, that you can read here.  He’s back with a full-length album entitled Twinwho?, which dropped today, April 27.

Twintwo
Photo by Paul Blinston

Like many rappers, Twintwo writes autobiographical lyrics for his songs as a way of expressing himself though music. A skilled wordsmith, he writes about his self-doubt and the challenges of trying to make it in the music business, coming to terms with being an adult, and relationships – both romantic and with friends – and how they relate to his career choices.

Twinwho? opens with ominous synth sounds as we’re introduced to “Haven’t Changed,” a scathing tirade against those who doubt him and cast aspersions upon his dreams.  He rapid-fire raps “Call me the shit, call me the villain. I work on this music ’cause it’s so appealing to prove you’re wrong. Release the song, then you got family asking how you are feeling./ I don’t need a plan B, bitch where’s your head at? What’s with all the negativity? I don’t care if you ain’t feeling me. I’m feeling me. It’s real to me.”

The dark video was filmed in a gloomy abandoned warehouse, the perfect setting for the grim-sounding track.

Moving along, on “This Year,” Twintwo questions whether his life has in fact changed – hopefully for the better, though he doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with some of those changes. He’s not sure why, but last year felt weird – but then so does this year. What he is certain of, though, is that he wants to keep growing as an artist, not remain stuck in the same spot he was then or even now. He sings “This year’s been weird, it’s clear/ I don’t want to be in the same place I was last year, ’cause last year was weird. I sat and I stared, but I don’t want to be in the same place I was next year, ’cause last year was weird.” The track features a lively hip hop beat that has a bit of a carnival vibe.

Now is a good time to point out that he has a knack for artfully choosing some fantastic hip hop beats for his songs that always sound perfectly suited to the lyrics. Employing a somewhat similar beat on the lighthearted track “Pizza Girl,” Twintwo sings about lusting after a girl working in the pizza parlor, even though she happens to be abusing drugs, and he already has a girlfriend. And who hasn’t at one time or another lusted after someone who was wrong for us?

Pizza Girl
Photo by Paul Blinston

One of the standout tracks is “I’d Be Better,” a song about the difficulties of finding success as a rapper, and comparing himself with friends who chose different career paths by going to ‘uni.’ He questions his goals, while remaining defiant in his decision to push forward with his music: “Oh what I do just to get famous. I’m nameless, brainless, don’t know what my game is. Lifestyle dangerous, but but nothing changes. When you’re doing jack, I’ll be better being famous.” In addition to the compelling lyrics, the instrumentals for the track are really terrific, with lots of piano, percussion and violin. The wonderful video for the song was filmed in Twintwo’s home and around his town, and stars his mum and friends. It tells the song’s story in a lighthearted, endearing manner that’s a joy to watch.

Not a Cool Guy” has Twintwo bemoaning the fact he’s been spending a lot of energy and money trying to impress his girlfriend, possibly at the expense of his career: “I’m not a cool guy, got no tattoos. Three years old are my Air Nike shoes. I don’t follow trends I’d rather spend everything that I get on a vid just to push more views.” The somber beat and instrumentals are simple but quite effective for the theme and lyrics. He turns deeply introspective, agonizing about his doubts and fears on “Demons.” “I’m seeing demons when I’m sleeping. Am I losing my mind? I think you will find that I’m a goner. I’ll be working hard, I’ll be working on these records. I ain’t seeing friends as much, ’cause this music takes over. Feel like rap’s got me trapped. I can’t seem to adapt.” The dark track features haunting instrumentals and a sinister, disembodied voiceover that perfectly fit its theme.

Continuing on the introspective theme, Twintwo contemplates the rapid passage of time and whether he’s made any progress in fulfilling his life goals with “Time Flies.” The melodic song has a fantastic hip hop beat, accentuated by beautiful mesmerizing synths and awesome strong percussion. The track quickly segues to “Lethal,” which features guest rappers FMA, 12 Gage & DREADNOUGHT. The five and a half-minute long hard-driving hip hop song is a departure from the other songs on the album in terms of sound, though it still addresses the challenges of being a successful rapper in the highly competitive hip hop genre. “Most of these cats go undisturbed. I’m lethal when I got the mike in my hand. It ain’t a problem.” It’s nice to see him collaborate with other rappers, and it’s a great addition to the album. His awesome rapping skills are evident as he holds his own with the others.

Rob Winterburn1

One of my favorite tracks is the album closer “Before You Leave,” mainly because of its compelling, bittersweet lyrics. Twintwo sings of the conflicting emotions he feels about losing some of his friends as he continues on his quest to build a career in hip hop, and coming to terms with the realities of how friendships sometimes fade away as we move on. The song opens with a mournful piano movement and sounds of a rainstorm. As the strong hip hop beat sets in, he raps:

I don’t want to lose them. I wanna keep on top of them. Fuck, I don’t knowI finally had to break the cycle, and now I’ve been going full pace with this music since the start of this year, and this music’s is all about what I wanna do. But what some people don’t realize is that you have to work on it every day. Like it’s not just gonna just fall on your lap. Yeah sure, take a day off,  but whilst you’re relaxing, there’s someone working as hard as you. It’s hunger, it just get’s addicting.

I talked to my closest friend about the issue, she said ‘it’s just life, and even though we miss you, you have to keep going, you have to go continue. ‘Cause one day you’ll wake up, then the blow will hit you that you could have tried harder.’ 

I love my friends, I do. But you gotta put yourself first. If they don’t stick around, I know it really hurts. But you gotta do you. / Thing is, I’m a low maintenance friend and like, you can just text me once a week or once a month or whatever. I still show love and stuff, ’cause I know we’re busy and stuff. And the thing is, you shouldn’t have to really rely on your friends to make you happy, because one day they’re gonna leave you or stab you in the back. It’s just life…everyone’s busy now.”

I love this fantastic album, and am so happy to see Twintwo continue to grow as an artist. He seems mature for his years (he’ll turn 22 in June) and I’m confident he’ll make an impact on the world of hip hop and rap.

The tracklist:

  1. Haven’t Changed
  2. This Year
  3. Pizza Girl
  4. I’d Be Better
  5. Not A Cool Guy
  6. Demons
  7. Time Flies
  8. Lethal (ft FMA, 12 Gage & DREADNOUGHT)
  9. Before You Leave

Connect with Twintwo:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream his music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

EP Review: KROSST OUT – “Life of the Party”

I love when hip hop is melded with other music genres. That’s one of many reasons why the music of artists such as Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine and twenty øne piløts is so incredible. So I was happy to discover the young Canadian rapper Krosst Out, who skillfully melds hip hop with punk rock to create a style uniquely his own. He’s set to release his debut EP Life of the Party in early March, and I have the pleasure of reviewing it.

Krosst Out grew up in a small town in Ontario, where he studied piano as a child. In his teens, influenced by artists such as Manafest, Eminem, Underoath, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Nas, and Marilyn Manson, he took up the bass guitar. He ended up playing in various local bands, developing his rapping skills along the way, and eventually settled in Toronto, where he began writing his own songs.

krosst-out

In the creation of Life of the Party, he teamed up with musicians Daniel Salij and Eric Soto, who also was beat master. Combine his biting, relevant lyrics with their music skills, and the result is a superb EP with six hard-hitting tracks that examine the darker aspects of the party life, with its attendant abuse of sex, drugs and alcohol. As Sandie Glasmacher wrote in her review for G Music Lab, it’s  ‘a gritty cautionary tale of what happens to the life of the party when the party is over and the lights turn back on.’

The strong EP opener “Skincrawler” is about a tormented soul crying out for help. Musically, the song is complex, with a haunting intro of plucky acoustic guitar, followed by unsettling male voices speaking of mental illness before Krosst Out’s impassioned rapping takes over. To a strong hip hop beat, he cries ‘The monster that my skin hides, on the inside, is eating me alive. It’s keeping me alive. I am picking, itching, tearing at my skin. I only want you to get in. I only want you to begin to see what it’s like to be me.’ The superb multi-textured guitars are accompanied by a melancholy but beautiful violin that adds great emotional depth to the track.

Calling out others’ bad behavior while not being honest about your own is the subject of the hip hop track “Tea 4 One.” Krosst Out sings ‘This is tea 4 one, put the kettle on, this has just begun. Everything and anything goes. You better be prepared to start eating crow, ’cause no one ever told me not to throw stones.’ He goes on to shout out his own shortcomings.

Kick It” is three minutes of punk rock awesomeness, with powerful, distorted guitars, thumping bass, rapid-fire drums and crashing cymbals. Krosst Out frantically raps ‘Everybody kick it now. We got the skills, to rock the mic and act like it kills. Real punk rock thrills. That’s right, we could go all night, we could go all night.‘ I love this song, and it’s one of my favorites on the EP.

Life of the Party” speaks to the good, bad and ugly of party life. To a pounding hip hop beat and crushing bass, Krosst Out assertively raps ‘We party like it’s nothing ’cause we’ve done this before. Breaking all the rules with the bottles on the floor. If you want to see our party, then wait what’s in store. I’m the life of the party, I’ve said that before.” At 2:30, the tempo changes abruptly, signifying that the party’s gone awry. Throbbing synths take over, the beat drops, and to discordant percussion he raps ‘Man you joking, this dude’s trying to choke me. Acting like a dope fiend.’ Party’s not so fun now…

The powerful track “Contradiction” opens with a mysterious voice chanting to a hypnotic beat and throbbing bass ‘Can you take me back to where I came from? Can you take me back?‘ Then Krosst Out begins rapping about his internal struggle between who he is and who he thinks he should be. ‘I can take this rock and I can shove it up my nose. I can take this 40 and I can drink it through a hose. I’m so white trash, man, everybody knows.  Watch my Chevrolet explode when I’m midway down the road. / And I know I’m white trash, I know I’m not Black. Stop being ignorant just ’cause I like rap.‘ Take a look at the great video for the song:

The last track on the EP , the compelling “I Don’t Care,” gets to the heart of the EP’s subject – the highs one experiences from uninhibited partying, and the crushing lows that can follow (feelings to which I can certainly attest from my own experience). Krosst Out laments: “I don’t have a care when the lights go out, when the lights go out, when the lights go out. I don’t want to feel when the lights come on, when the lights come on, when the lights come on. What you know about losing yourself at 2 am? Going through the drugs and booze again? Climbing on the roof again? Screaming that you’re losing it? And jumping in the pool again.

The song features a mesmerizing hip hop beat, haunting melody and some pretty awesome distorted guitar riffs, along with the beguiling guest vocals of his friend Mel Yelle.

To sum up, Life of the Party is a solid EP that gets better with every listen. The music and production are first-rate, and the intense song lyrics are so loaded with meaning that I discovered something new each time. To learn more about Krosst Out, check out his website and follow him on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram. Stream his music on Spotify and purchase on iTunes and other sites offering music for download.

Twintwo – “Mr Winterburn” EP Review

I recently discovered a talented, hard-working young hip hop musician from the UK who goes by the name Twintwo.  I loved his music the moment I heard it. Not only is he an amazing rapper, with a nimble, rapid-fire delivery, the music is joyously upbeat, with artful, melodically complex arrangements. His rapping with a British accent makes his voice especially appealing for me, plus he’s a nice, humble guy.

Twintwo

Twintwo was born 20 years ago as Robert Winterburn.  Regarding the origin of his artistic name, he explained that he was the second of twins to be born, but before his parents could fully name him, he was designated “Twin II.” He’s been a big fan of rap music since the age of nine or ten, and started writing songs at around 16. In a recent interview with the blog Xustralia, he stated his music is influenced by Hopsin, Logic, Slaughterhouse, Machine Gun Kelly, and a bit of Calvin Harris.

He released his first song “Beggin” in June, 2015, and later that year dropped a 10 track mix tape All Day Everyday.  That work featured original tracks, as well as his skillful rapping over a few hip hop songs by other artists, including the Logic/Ed Sheeran collaboration “All Along the Watchtower.”  He ramps it up with fresh energy on his latest release, a semi-autobiographical EP titled Mr Winterburn. All five songs are awesome, but I’ll discuss three of them.

The first single, “Late Night Drives,” dazed my ears with its driving EDM-infused hip hop beat and Twintwo’s 100 mile-an-hour rapping. It’s impossible to listen to this exhilarating song without wanting to dance around the room like a crazy person. I never want the song to end so keep hitting repeat.

For the title track, “Mr Winterburn,” Twintwo sings about the challenge of growing up and struggling to have a music career, paying lyrical homage to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and twenty one pilot’s “Stressed Out” (two of my favorite songs).  He sings “Yeah, I know I’m not taking this as serious as I should/I know if I could I would but I don’t understand the concept/Too immature for my own good.” Later in the song, he laments “I wish I could go back to when I was riding a bicycle.”

https://soundcloud.com/officialtwintwo/mr-winterburn

“Drug Dealers and DJs” has a jazzy, roaring 20s vibe set to a crushing hip hop beat. The old-time sounding horns throughout the song are a sonic delight, and perfectly tailored for the song’s theme. Since I wrote this review, Twintwo released a delightful video for the track.

Even if you’re not a big fan of hip hop or rap, I promise you’ll find yourself liking Twintwo’s music, which is available on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. Also, follow him on Facebook and Twitter.