This week see’s Ryan O’Shea’s inaugural edition of Three. In each edition of the series, Ryan will review three songs: one that he really likes, one that he’s neutral about, and one that he really doesn’t like.
Kendrick Lamar: i
Returning to circulation after the success his reflective album Good Kid M.A.A.D City, Kendrick Lamar releases i. An upbeat track, it seems people have misinterpreted the message. The chorus has Kendrick proclaiming his love… for himself. This explains the title, but it seems some audiences have missed why he is rapping in such a way. People have called him arrogant, when in actuality he simply feels proud of what he’s become considering his rough up bringing in the streets of Compton, California. He constantly faced challenges caused by the Ghetto habitat he lived in, but his confidence in himself propelled him through these trials to the success he currently has. I was originally put off this song. The beat struck me as too upbeat (A completely subjective statement) and Kendrick’s altered voice is distracting to say the least, the latter point being the reason I have not downloaded the song yet. That being said, give the song a listen if you have a chance. While my taste in rap gravitates to New York boom bap of the 80’s and 90’s, it’s refreshing to here an upbeat rap track with a message when you’re in a sea of high hats and auto tune.
J Cole: Fire Squad
Relatively new to the mainstream, J. Cole was a rapper I never made time for until I listened to one of his earlier tracks in December. Similar to my original disenchantment to Kendrick, I heard a small portion of one of his songs and decided it was not my style. Enter Fire Squad, a song that has all the qualities I look for. Firstly, one of the most terribly under rated aspects of rap is the need for energy. Unless your song has a reason to be subdued, rapping slowly with little stress on words is almost always a bad decision. In Fire Squad, Cole opens each verse on the offensive, restraining his rage at the beginning of each verse but allowing it to seep out as the lyrics progress. Speaking of lyrics, they also showcase Cole’s talents. While I’m normally not one to enjoy brag rap, Fire Squad brings energy and lyrical finesse, making it definitely worth your time.
Rock City: I’m that… Ft. 2 Chainz
Oh no. Oh, please no. When I said energy is underrated, I also should have mentioned it has to be directed at something. Rock City begins by immediately saying something no one could possibly take offence to: Stating his need for a BMW, and then comparing his rap careers trajectory with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. Great start, absolutely inspired. He returns to the idea of owning a BMW a few times throughout the song, which, at the very least, works as a symbol of the success he is striving for. That is the one part of this song that at least had some prior thought. The rest is filled with bragging about the state of disrepair his neighbourhood seems to be in; a fact he seems overjoyed with. I’ll end this review with a brilliant line from Rock: “Theron, Theron yes my name is Theron. My mother name me Theron, when you see me call me Theron.” That we will Theron. That we will.