Forest Hills Drive Album Review

As a writer, I appreciate a great story teller; J. Cole is a rapper born to tell a story. From his first mix tape The Warm Up, I fell in love with his raw honesty on “Lights Please.” Such a deep brother is a nice inhale of fresh air from the smog filling my soul on a daily basis from the crap on the radio. And it’s not just me. People are loving this renaissance of “realism” in our music. The other day, I was watching his video for “Crooked Smile” featuring TLC. It’s truly an uplifting tune, but I was actually paying more attention to the video. Commenters on YouTube (Best believe that there is ALWAYS a fight in the comments section) argued that the visuals had nothing to do with the lyrics which I actually agree with. But here was J. Cole retelling a true story about a man getting arrested for selling a dime bag of weed. But that’s not the real heartache. The cops stormed into his house like it was a drug raid, arrested him, and shot his daughter on her birthday when they saw her peeking out from her room. He leaves us with this at the very end: And Please Reconsider Your War on Drugs. It had me scratching my head like what does that mean? In the comments section, two people were having an intense discussion about the war on drugs. One spoke about a documentary called “The House I Live In.” I found it on Netflix and was mind blown about what’s really going on in the prison system. It’s terrible and is practically a legal form of genocide. The point I’m trying to make is just from checking out J. Cole’s video, my mind was able to expand; my conscious was taken to another world. It opened me up to a new issue I never thought twice about. J. Cole really makes you think and I respect him so much for that. I listened to Forest Hills Drive the other day and just felt I had to write about it. For anyone who’s a fan of his knows it came out last year, but it’s better late than never right?

When listening to Forest Hills Drive, imagine sitting right across from Cole. You’ll see the emotion spread across his face as he lets you into his past, his dreams, his fears, his life all in an hour and six minutes. Feel the acne and butterflies from teen years rise up when tuning in “Wet Dreams.” This time warp of a track takes us back to two teenagers, young Cole pretending to have “experience” and a young lady who is indeed inexperienced facing intimacy for the first time. It’s so cute it will make you blush; Oh what the imagination of a young man will make him do. In “Adolescence,” he literally shares the thoughts of his teenage self – a shy guy wanting more out of life. He almost gets into the drug game, but his wise “mentor” wakes him up and reminds him of his own potential. The lone wolf cries combined with the slow beat take my senses to the cold fence he was once perched on in this self awareness tale.

“A Tale of Two Cities” and “Fire Squad” go into the desperate minds of the cunning living in a land where trying to survive is not enough. His flow in “Fire Squad” has my head bobbing so much I might be tempted to drop some F bombs at random in the street with my arms pumped up. Side Note: I do not curse. I love the message he relays from the middle to the end about how rappers are always talking about who’s the best instead of waking up and realizing who’s taking their sound. He further goes in to say that we are all kings; we shouldn’t “cling to the need for power….Today I know we are the same…….we’re all poets, cause deep down inside I know we all just want to be loved.” #Truth.

The very next track brings the mood down from high intensity to cool grooving in “St. Tropez.” The low tempo collection of drums, violins, a saxophone and the dreamy lulls of the chorus can teleport you right to the beach. Now only if it could literally do that, it would be the dopest song EVER. “Role Models” has such a HOT beat. “Don’t save her. She don’t to be saved. Don’t save her. She don’t want to be saved” – Damn, this song really has me going. It speaks a depth of truth about some (not all) women in our society who are just “lost.” And of course “Apparently,” his hit single from this album, is one of my favorite tracks to listen to right now. His realization about the integral people in his life, including the one who carried him for nine months, is both refreshing and uplifting to listen to.

I could literally write about every song on this album, but I will stop here. Forest Hills Drive is an astounding package of the exemplary electrical impulses going on in that pink mush of his. It makes you dive into the deep waters of adolescence, surviving in the game, gratification for loved ones and self awareness. It’s a true testament to what conscious music is all about.

Grass Ain’t Greener By Chris Brown

There is something about Chris Brown. What is it?  His soft croons. His fabulous dancing. His genius decisions to always choose such an r&b beat sometimes fused with techno. Ugh! I can’t stand his fine self. Well, he could chill with the constant changing of hairstyles. Lol. Anyway, “Grass Ain’t Greener” captures my spirit. The inconsistency of the hollow noises inter-playing throughout the track catches my ears and drags me into an orgasmic musical submission from his light, smooth croons. My head is at mercy to the beat for reasons I know not. Regardless of what it is, this track always makes my body want to move into a dance frenzy even if I am on a crowded subway. Stare at me and I may be staring mindlessly into an abyss of the world around me. But secretly, I am dancing in the “Let’s Go Get My Ex” induced video right along with Brown in my mind. Now watch me make my move.

I Would Like by Zara Larsson

I question why so many songs today choose to sample from the 90s. Nah! I’m trippin.’ It’s clearly because we’re all obsessed with the 90s. There have been some excellent re-dos to the oldies hits. Some of them should have been left alone however. This track is not one of them. Zara Larsson’s “I Would Like,” is not a bad version of the classic reggae tune “Dat Sexy Body” from Sasha. I could never forget the days when that tune used to bump through the East Flatbush windows of my old building as an itty bitty kid. Zara throws her millennial flavor into it creating a House/dance vibe sort of separating from the whining culture this beat originally ensued. It is nice to hear this tune again – and it’s not so bad hearing it in this 2016 twist. I bet this song will be on heavy base throbbing into the ears of 20 somethings at 11 pm on a Friday night. Anyway, let’s enjoy this track however you like to receive it.

The Tool Kit

To put in my hair or to not put in my hair? That is the question. Choosing the right hair product is like going to a new restaurant. Everything looks divine. You read the ingredients, check out the pictures, even the smells masking the venue will have your taste buds bouncing around in a frenzy. The combination of it all makes it difficult to make a choice. This is how I feel when I’m in the hair product section. Everything looks so enticing in terms of what can be put in my hair. Think about the language they use to write about each product.

“This soothing lather seeps into your scalp leaving your hair rich with volume and shine.”

“Tame those tresses while keeping your mane fresh with our shine and frizz control.”

How do I choose? It’s a tough decision, but the best way to pick what belongs in my hair tool kit is that magic place that lives in our hands, in our laps and in our homes. The internet introduces me to a bountiful amount of opinions made from all types of women with different hair issues. It’s always so reassuring to find a related hair issue to mine there.

Through all of the various products that I read about (Dr. Miracles, Mixed Chicks, Carol’s Daughter, Cantu, etc), there’s one that always seems to be at the top of the list: Shea Moisture. Without even realizing it, my Shea Moisture collection has grown. Throughout this process, Shea Moisture has held it down in making me feel more at ease and comfortable in transitioning. My tool kit will lead me to the natural hair glory that I’ve been waiting for. I’m so excited!!!!

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Been to the Moon by Corinne Bailey Rae

This songstress has kept away from us for far too long. Yes! I know she has her own life. But Corinne Bailey Rae’s music has always been just the right sound I needed to hear without even knowing it. I am truly pleased to hear that she’s making music again. In her latest video, “Been to the Moon,” one can see how far she’s grown musically. The sound has a celestial approach that leaps along with her sweet, soft croons. Feel the heart of this production at the chorus – her voice soulfully intertwines with the light changes of the beat. This psychedelic track is a marriage between the new and the old. Don’t let your ears meander away from it; take a listen below.

 

Wild Things by Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara embraces the utter joy of being young in her new vid “Wild Things.” The days of just kicking it with your homies doing random activities and ending up in places you never dreamed of is some of the highlights of the #YOLO crowd. Cara takes her kindred spirit, and other like-minded ones, on a fun filled journey in this energy filled visual. This songstress with her sultry croons over the light up-tempo beat reminds us of the pure joy of being young and of being just a little wild. There’s truth to everything she says, especially the ending as well. Enjoy below.

 

 

Empowerment and Grooves at Leftfield

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I’m super late with this post (One day I will be better at not procrastinating… one day). Although, the busy work life does have a lot to do with it.

On February 5, I had the pleasure to be in attendance of some truly dope performers at the Leftfield, a spot hidden in the swanky, urban ambiance that makes up the L.E.S. This chill bar/performance hub was an epicenter for the Friday night crew: youngsters ready to start the weekend RIGHT. Among the hipsters and inhabitants of the cool was a quaint little collective body of music lovers ready to be immersed with some pleasant noise. The first performer I heard for the night,  Conscious LEO, provided an incredible energy to the dwellers of Leftfield. The crowd was in full out cheers, enthusiasm and uninhibited energy during the blight of his performance. LEO served us some knowledge with his humble tribute to his home of Memphis and brought out the lion in us all with his powerful stance to the #BlackPower movement.

After Conscious Leo’s dynamic performance, I was glued to the energy of the room. My butt wasn’t going anywhere. My musical heart was overjoyed at my decision. For that night, two more artists took me on their lyrical journey where I was able to sway in elation from the sweet grooves of ISA and delve into the Chicago sound from R.O.E. (Rising Over Envy). Both performers packed a punch in how they creatively showcased their individuality. ISA’s gorgeous croons had me bouncing to the reality of having no money but also had me in the feels for that special someone from her sultry, genuine tunes. R. O.E did not fail to represent the artistry of his sound with positive messages about grinding, making it after leaving the nest, and more. All of these performers had that ‘wow’ factor which will keep myself and many others a fan for years to come.

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Conscious LEO

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ISA

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R.O.E.