Review: Meek Mill’s ‘Championships’ Is His Most Inspired Album Yet

The life of Meek Mill has been nothing short of an American epic. He grew up poor, raised by a single mother after his dad was shot and killed when he was 5-years-old. He emerged as a teenage rap sensation flowing on Philadelphia street corners (“I break bricks and throw shells like Mario”) and eventually grew into one of the country’s most charismatic rap stars – a self-made millionaire who fulfilled his wildest dreams. And yet he has never been able to cast off the lidless, Sauron-like gaze of the criminal justice system. He has been on probation since he caught weapons and drugs charges in 2007, and late last year, Judge Genece Brinkley, who has been assigned to his case since the very beginning, ruled that he violated probation by popping a wheelie on his dirt bike in upper Manhattan and sentenced him to two-to-four years in prison.

When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Meek’s sentence five months later in April 2018, he emerged from Graterford Correctional Facility with a burning desire to speak out against the ills of the justice system. He appeared on NBC Dateline, penned an op-ed in the New York Times, and announced a new foundation spearheaded by himself and 76ers owner Michael Rubin. In the lead-up to the release of his new full-length Championships, he eschewed conventional promotional tactics in favor of candid discussions of criminal justice reform on CNN, Ellen, and Beats 1. Though Meek insists he doesn’t consider himself an activist, he has positioned himself, at the very least, as an advocate.

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Review: ‘Evil Genius’ Is Gucci Mane on Autopilot

In the glorious pantheon of trap rappers, Gucci Mane’s dais is the largest. Since the mid 2000s, Guwop’s been peddling a very specific style of rap music – one for the hustlers, not the hustled. He wasn’t the first to rap about drugs, but he was first to package it within a very particular set of characteristics that would later be stretched out and commercialized. He seldom argues the fact that he’s the creator of rap’s biggest subculture – he lets T.I.Jeezy, and others have fun with that – and lets his enormous catalog play as something of an oral history of the genre. With more than 12 albums and 71 mixtapes, there’s not much more that Gucci Mane can show us to cement himself as one of the most influential artists in hip-hop culture. And that’s precisely the problem with Evil Genius; it’s familiar when everyone around him has taken steps to change the parameters of trap more than he ever has. Gucci Mane sounds comfortable, making this skippable.

Evil Genius is an album for settling in on a car ride and for making the lower end of curated playlists on DSPs. To that end, most of its 18-track runtime is dedicated to downtrodden trap anthems with lush elements like the ambience of “By Myself” or the stabs of piano on “Just Like It.” It nary reaches the oddity of modern trap that’s evolved away from the street corner anthems of Gucci’s heyday. In this respect, it creates something of a uniform sound. Gucci’s 808s have never been more prevalent, which is a plus. His drawling bass has been a constant, and a large reason his music bruised the speakers of Nissan Altimas in 2008 when the lyricism stagnated and never improved.

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10 Recording Artists to Watch in 2019

Just as there is always a slew of prestige albums to look forward to, every new year is guaranteed to present to the world a crop of fresh, invigorating talent to get to know. And 2019 is no exception; there is already a wealth of promising young new artists breaking out in their respective scenes. The challenge was not finding a crew of ones to watch, but in whittling down a list of a mere 10.

And yet, we persevered. The following group of 10 artists are ones we’ve slowly gotten to know over the past year, and we feel confident all of them are set to make 2019 the year in which they fully blossom. From A$AP Mob-affiliate Chynna to startlingly original MC JPEGMAFIA to one of 88 rising’s brightest stars Lexie Liu, these are the new artists that Highsnobiety has its eyes on this year.

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Jason Ivy Explains Unique Art Concept For Upcoming 'CØMPLIMENTS' EP

Born and raised in Chicago, Jason Ivy is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and Linguistics. As a multitalented musician and recording artist, Jason combines his formal training with veteran vocal coach Dr. Lena McLin and his time in the Soul Children of Chicago (among other groups), with his love of music and its ability to tell a story, send a message, express feeling, and unite myriad people all at once. Mr. Ivy takes influence from the Hip Hop, Neo-Soul, Alt Rock, and “Lo-fi” music genres, to bring us a fresh perspective on music.

About the EP and Cover Art:

CØMPLIMENTS is the first EP project from new Neo Soul / R&B artist Jason Ivy. Each icon represents one of the six songs from the project. In order, they are: Hate (the spiteful message and angered posture of the astronaut), Foreign (the astronaut itself), Higher (the rocket), Chlorophyll (the sunflowers), Ivy (the ivy leaves), and Pyre (the woman with the burning heart).

The concept behind both the EP and the cover art is that these are all separate concepts that function as a whole, all mostly contained within this jar. Each of the songs addresses the state of the jar — being emotionally empty or filled — which doubles as a graphic metaphor for the state of the narrator’s own emotions.

The narrator is visibly angry as they take on a role outside of all of these events — a foreigner to their own emotions, and to a space where they should belong. A second catalyst for the narrator’s anger is that all of these songs have come to life and are escaping in a larger than life format, over which they have no control. In the end, it seems the narrator is along for the ride just as much as the audience is.

Featured Single

The single “Higher” was inspired by a late summer hangout with Jason Ivy and friends. It was the first time that all of them had gotten together, but it was so late in the season that it would likely also be the last time. Of course, among his friends happened to be a girl that he liked at the time, so Jason ran with the idea of unrealized love interests and coupled it with cool summer vibes. Those themes were transformed into a unique love song that examines the feelings of a confident young man at the start of a blossoming relationship.“Higher” features thoughtful, brooding lyrics with lines that cascade effortlessly from one to the next, and silky smooth vocals crooned over old school cool 80’s production.

CØMPLIMENTS (read: Empty Compliments)

Artist: Jason Ivy

Release Date: 2.09.19 | Pre-order Date: 2.01.19

Record Label: Amada Records

First Listen: Leyla McCalla, 'The Capitalist Blues'

The globalization of pop music has been under way for a while now, with the sounds and sensibilities of K-pop, reggaeton and myriad other Latinx styles serving as major sources of fuel. Still, much pop that's aimed at Anglo audiences tends to be stripped of meaningful cultural markers and metabolized as mildly exotic seasoning in accessible new hit-making conventions. The roots-music scene can display assimilationist tendencies, too, but it's also home to a small but growing number of artists — including Leyla McCalla and her sometime bandmate Rhiannon Giddens, Hurray for the Riff Raff's Alynda Segarra, Dom Flemons and Kaia Kater — who don't stand by and accept the whitewashing of culturally distinct origins. Instead, their work does the intellectual labor of clarifying; of reconnecting the dots, reconstructing context, retelling and sometimes personalizing neglected stories.

That needn't be anything close to a dry, academic exercise, as McCalla proves on The Capitalist Blues. The new album, her third, imaginatively maps her vision of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora and summons bodily, social and emotional wisdom through its dance music, gently taking Anglocentricism down a notch in the process. The Haitian-American singer-songwriter has said that moving to New Orleans nearly a decade ago helped her connect more viscerally to historical Haitian Creole resilience and musical expression. She's spent the years since primarily accompanying herself on cello — using it as a choppy, churning rhythm instrument rather than a lyrical one — in bilingual contemporary folk ballads and string-band compositions. This time, she laid her cello aside in favor of electric guitar and tenor banjo and enlisted an R&B-reviving veteran of the New Orleans club scene, Jimmy Horn of King James & the Special Men, to produce. A rotating cast of musicians — including specialists in the living traditions of various Haitian, Brazilian, Cajun, zydeco and calypso styles — supplies the feels and textures she wanted.

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