DJ Khaled, Jarren Benton, Noname - Quick Album Reviews

Another week of great music has gone by, and so, I briefly share my thoughts on the most important hip-hop albums that came out over the past seven days. Today, we'll cover projects from Atlanta spitter Jarren Benton, Internet sensation DJ Khaled, and poet Noname. Without further ado, let's get to it:

Jarren Benton - Slow Motion Vol. 2

The last time we heard Mr. Benton use his rifle-life flow to share his perverted and gruesome thoughts, Funk Volume was still alive. Following a rather sour fallout between owners Hopsin and Damien Ritter, Jarren was back by himself. Which sort of sucks, because this album is truly getting slept on. In my personal opinion, this blows any previous work out of the water.

Dedicated to his deceased friend and manager Jahmal “Slow Motion” Pryor, Jarren's sharp (and often hilarious) punchlines are still there. From top to bottom, there isn't a single wack verse in here. However, content is more diversified. The first half of the album brings the druggy, hype tracks we're used to. But starting at 'Scared', things take a turn, as Benton switches up and discusses his fears, police brutality, the culture, Funk Volume, and memories with Pryor. Overall, Slow Motion Vol. 2 is more mature and thoughtful than the rest of Benton's catalogue.

Production is also quite varied, with an equal amount of loud, introspective, and boom bap sounds. Names go from long-time contributors Kato and DJ Hoppa, to bigger talent like Statik Selektah. Features are also high-quality. The recurring theme? No wack MC's. Locksmith, Chris Rivers, Dizzy Wright, and numerous other tag along to deliver dope verses. As a whole, this body of work gave me exactly what I wanted from Jarren.

Word to Describe the Project: Dope
Favorite Songs: Slow Motion (Intro), Miss You, Tec In The Church, Aluminum Bat
Least Favorite Song: WTFUB
Verdict: Worth Buying on CD

DJ Khaled - Major Key

Regardless of your feeling towards his musical abilities, you must admit: DJ Khaled is a true businessman. He might not be this generation's greatest artist, but he knows how to create hits and money. Although he was always a part of the industry, Snapchat allowed him to take his brand to the next label. Gearing up to the release of 'Major Key', he promised to gather Hip-Hop's finest in order to create a masterpiece. The question remains, is the album any good? Not really.

Now, every DJ Khaled release has a similar structure: some great music, some forgettable music, some horrible music. And unsurprisingly, 'Major Key' follows the exact recipe. It's important to mention that there are a couple of genuinely remarkable songs in here. 'Holy Key' is a spectacular anthem with fantastic verses from both Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean (shocker). 'Nas Album Done' is a clear reminded that Nas did not fall off, spitting heavy bars over a bouncy, wild sample. 'Jermaine's Interlude brings J. Cole back from the dead to share important content about staying true to your artistry and not signing to a major label. 'Don't Ever Play Yourself' is an incredibly fun, lyrical track. When it comes to bangers, 'I Got the Keys' and 'Tourist' will remain on my car for weeks to come.

Then, we move on to the average sounds. 'Ima be Alright', 'For Free' and 'Fuck Up The Club' are all generic, bass-heavy 'bangers' with disappointment features by the liked of Bryson Tiller and Future. Don't hate these songs, but definitely don't love them. Finally, we get to the bad. 'Pick These Hoes Apart' and 'Do You Mind' are some of the corniest, wackest music I've heard this year. Once again, Khaled manages to simultaneously fulfill my expectations while also shooting them down. Buy the tracks you personally enjoy, but don't cop the entire thing.

Word to Describe the Project: Meh
Favorite Songs: Holy Key, Nas Album Done, I Got The Keys, Don't Ever Play Yourself
Least Favorite Songs: Pick These Hoes Apart, Do You Mind
Verdict: Solid Listen (Drugs Required)

Noname - Telefone

Last but certainly not least, we get to Noname's debut mixtape. I was actually excited to give this one a listen. 2016 seems to be Chicago's year. Quality drops from Kanye West, Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, and Joey Purp are more than enough to justify my theory. Anyways, I've been hearing this girl all over the place, and I couldn't wait to see what she had in store for us. For the most part, I'm satisfied.

The one aspect that separates Noname from any other artist is her flow. Clearly inspired by slam-poetry, she uses this soft flow you've never heard before. When you combine that with her smooth voice, you get a very poetic and gorgeous sound. Lyrically it's amazingly consistent, with no weak moments. She perfectly understands how to put words together. Throughout the mixtape, it feels like a story is being told. It's incredibly chill and sweet, but you never fully lose interest. Raury and Saba also stood out, with original, wonderful verses.

Production wise, 'Telefone' seems to be inspired by 'Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them' by Blu and Exile. It's excellent. If the instrumentation had a visual representation, it would be the cover. The beats are somehow colorful, cute, soulful, and nostalgic at the same time. As captivating as the experience is, it can become slightly repetitive. Noname doesn't really change her flow, and I guess I can see people complaining about production being too similar. If the mixtape was longer, I would probably have an issue. As it stand, I believe Telefone is a strong debut that will likely grow on me over the next couple of weeks.

Word to Describe the Project: Warm
Favorite Songs: Reality Check, Shadow Man, Diddy Bop
Least Favorite Song: Bye Bye Baby
Verdict: Good Listen (No Drugs Required)

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