Album Review: Joyce Wrice-Overgrown

The R&B singer delivers her brand of throwback vibes on her debut album

Joyce Wrice has been bubbling for some time on the underground R&B scene. The LA-based singer/songwriter broke out in 2016 with her EP Stay Around and continued with collaborations with artists such as Westside Gunn of Griselda, The Free Nationals, and Crush. Under the partnership with R&B producer and frequent Ty Dolla $ign collaborator  D’Mile, Wrice takes listeners onto a time capsule back to the heyday of 1990s hip hop soul with Overgrown.
From the jump, it’s apparent that this project takes various cues from musical elements of R&B albums of that era. The most striking takeaway of this album’s sound is the lush but gritty instrumentation across all tracks. Funky guitar licks, boom-bap drums, string melodies and winding chord progressions permeate tracks such as Chandler, Losing, and Addicted. The self-titled track is a piano laden ballad that shares similar themes of self-love and strength with Mary J. Blige’s material, particularly My Life. The collaboration with fellow half-Japanese R&B singer UMI, a remix to That’s On You, carries a bluesy feel and is noteworthy for having a crossover appeal with Japanese lyrics. So So Sick is perhaps the biggest musical tribute to 90s R&B, with a subtle sample of Jon B’s 1997 hit They Don’t Know.

Another element Overgrown borrows from 1990s R&B albums is the balance of soulfulness and hip hop swagger through its collaborations and structure. On One with Freddie Gibbs carries the spirit of singer-rapper collabs such as Anything by SWV and Wu Tang Clan and Can’t You See by Total and the Notorious BIG. Westside Gunn’s Interlude, featuring the eponymous rapper, is humorously vulgar and reminiscent of rap interludes and intros on R&B albums by the likes of Phife Dawg and Busta Rhymes. Falling In Love, with fellow D’Mile collaborator Lucky Daye, hearkens back to collabs between singers like Slow Jam by Usher and Monica, and Final Warning by Ginuwine and Aaliyah. The album’s mix of uptempos and slow jams are tied together cohesively by interludes in the same way Faith Evans and Blackstreet used them on their albums.

Overall, Overgrown is a strong debut album for Joyce Wrice with its rich melodic textures compared to a majority of modern R&B albums with heavy hip hop influence. If this project is a sign of Wrice’s future as an artist, is it clear that she’ll be a breath of fresh air for R&B.

Score: 9.5/10

Written by Kristian Gonzales

Behind the Seams with Blake: Padres Season Takeaways So Far

Behind the Seams with Blake: Padres Season Takeaways So Far.

Hello readers! I’m back with another post about the 2021 MLB season. For this edition of Behind the Seams, I will be recapping the biggest takeaways from the first 21 games played by my hometown team, the San Diego Padres. As of this writing they have a record of 11-10, placing them 3rd in the NL West standings. They sit behind the Dodgers and the 12-7 Giants, who have benefited from the Houdini magic of backup catcher Curt Casali, who amazingly has caught 5 consecutive shutouts in games he has started behind the plate. I have watched every Padres game this season, and there have been some really awesome moments, but also I’ve unfortunately gotten used to watching them miss out on some really big run scoring opportunities. Add in a few injuries to big stars, and that’s where the Pads find themselves at the moment. They began their second series against the division-rival Dodgers on Thursday, and the 4 game series will be going on all weekend long.

The first topic I will discuss is the various injuries the Padres have been hit with just a few weeks into the season. Every Padres fan held their breath when 22 year old face of the franchise Fernando Tatis Jr. fell to the ground in pain after a swing 2 weeks ago. It turned out to be a shoulder injury, and the idea of him having to undergo surgery and miss the season was being floated by media outlets. Thankfully, he only ended up missing about 10 days, and while he has struggled to start the season, I know Fernando is bound to get red-hot offensively any moment now.

Another promising Padre who has been bitten by the injury bug this season is left handed starter Adrian Morejon, but unfortunately for him, he will miss much more than 10 days. He left his last start with a forearm injury, and he has undergone the infamous Tommy John Surgery, which has come to mean that he will miss about a year and a half rehabbing. It’s a shame to see a talented young pitcher like Morejon miss an extended period of time with injuries, as he was going to have a really good chance to make a name for himself on this 2021 Padres squad. Now, we’ll have to wait until either late in the 2022 season or 2023 to see what Morejon can become for the team. 

One of the top starting pitchers in the MLB in the 60 game 2020 season, Dinelson Lamet has also struggled with injuries to start this season. He went down with arm troubles late in 2020, and the Padres have been extremely cautious with him since in hopes of him not requiring surgery. As of right now, their strategy isn’t paying off… Lamet made his season debut a few days ago on April 21st but had to leave after just 2 innings due to forearm soreness. He is now back on the injured list, but the team believes he will be back on the active roster shortly.

The Padres have also started the season quite badly when hitting with runners in scoring position. (Don’t worry, I’m saving the good story for last) In terms of runners left in scoring position per game, the Padres have the 3rd worst mark this season, leaving an average of 4 ducks on the pond per game. What’s most frustrating for me to watch is that the team seems to have a habit of taking fastballs down the middle for strike 3 in big moments with runners on base. I don’t have a grand scheme for how they could turn this habit around, but I’d at least like to see them swing at the pitches instead of giving up as soon as they don’t get the pitch they’re looking for. Yes, I know it’s easy for me to say because I’m not the one who has to try to hit 95+ mph pitches on a daily basis, but it’s food for thought. Perhaps the team just needs a slight altering of their approach at the plate and then their struggles with runners in scoring position can become less of a glaring issue.

As promised, I’m going to end on a high note. In just his 2nd start of the season and as a Padre, Joe Musgrove threw the FIRST NO HITTER OF FRANCHISE HISTORY! This game was truly awesome to watch. Musgrove was in total control of the Rangers, as the only hard hit balls of the game were liners to Wil Myers in right to close out the 8th inning and to 2nd baseman Jake Cronenworth in the 9th. I was so glad that manager Jayce Tingler left Joe in the game to complete the career night, as it’s become common for pitchers to be removed in the 6th or 7th inning with no hitters intact because their pitch counts are already at or approaching 100. I will say this until the end of time; a combined no hitter is nothing compared to an individual no hitter. Every franchise in the MLB now has at least one no hitter in their history, but none of them took as long to get one as the Padres did, waiting 8,205 games until finally getting that first no hit performance from Musgrove. It is such a great story that Musgrove ended up being the first to do it as a Padre, as he is from the San Diego area, and even got a Padres tattoo on his arm when he was 18. The Padres acquired “Java Joe” from the Pirates over the offseason, and I hope that this is only the beginning of the great pitching performances that we will see from him in a Padres uniform.

P.S. In my prior blog post, I wrote about how the As got off to such a horrible start this season, and I must point out that they have completely turned around their season since. They have won an astounding 11 games in a row, and now look like the contending team they’ve been the past few years. Maybe reading my Behind the Seams post about their struggles gave them motivation to prove me wrong and reach their potential. The baseball season is full of surprises, and that’s one of the many reasons I can never get enough of it. 

Written by: Blake Koziel 

Photo Source: San Diego Union Tribune

Behind the Seams with Blake: Unexpected MLB Team Records So Far in 2021

These teams have surprised viewers thus far in the 2021 baseball season, posting win/loss records that aren’t in line with preseason predictions.

What’s going on readers! No really…what’s going on here? Who had the Reds being one of the hottest teams and the Orioles sweeping their opening series against the Red Sox on their 2021 MLB Bingo card? Who thought the Braves would begin the season by losing their first 4 games and the As would start out 1-7? Nobody. In this post, I will chronicle how the Reds, Braves, and Athletics got to their current records and explain whether I think their performance trends will continue in the same fashion for the entirety of the season.

Cincinnati Reds: The Reds have begun the season on fire offensively, averaging 9.5 runs per game, en route to a NL Central leading 5-1 record through their first 6 games of the season. Key players on offense have been top prospect 2B Jonathan India, RF Nick Castellanos (pictured above), and LF Tyler Naquin. Interestingly, Naquin was initially in the lineup just to fill in for regular LF Jesse Winker, but if Naquin continues hitting like he is (.316, 4 HRs in 19 ABs) I’d imagine the Reds will have a tough time deciding who to start in left once they are both fully healthy. The Reds have also gotten solid performances from 4 of their 5 starting pitchers through their first go-around in the rotation, with only their ace Luis Castillo (no, not the Marlins infielder from the Steve Bartman game) struggling so far this year. Now for the real question, is this sustainable? No, a team cannot average 9.5 runs per game through an entire season, as it’s the nature of the game for players to get into hitting slumps throughout the course of the season. The Reds can hope that their best hitters alternate times to go into slumps to avoid completely shutting off on offense for prolonged stretches of the season. Additionally, the team lacks proven starters in their rotation beyond ace Luis Castillo, as the rest of the rotation consists of 34-year-old Wade Miley, back of rotation starter Tyler Mahle, and 2 of the best starting pitching prospects of 2016 who’ve struggled to this point in the big leagues, Jeff Hoffman and Jose De Leon. It’s been entertaining to see the Reds showing a lot of fight to start the season (pun intended), but I still ultimately see the Cardinals winning the NL Central this season.

Atlanta Braves: Starting out the season 0-4, the Braves picked up their first 2 wins of the season on Wednesday, winning both games of a doubleheader against the Nats. The team has been shaky all around to start the season, as Ronald Acuna is the only player on offense who is not struggling to a certain extent. Top 2020 starting pitcher Max Fried has struggled in his first 2 starts of the season, and the back end of the bullpen hasn’t been a sure thing to this point either. Regardless of their struggles early on, I believe the Braves will turn their season around quickly and find themselves in the hunt for the NL East title once again, as they have so much young talent on their roster to go with several veteran players who have been on playoff-caliber teams already in their careers.

Oakland Athletics: It’s been pretty painful to watch As games thus far, as they have been quite pitiful though their first 8 games of the season, falling to a 1-7 record and landing at the bottom of the AL West division standings to start the season. Their franchise cornerstone Matts with the Bats; Matt Chapman and Olson have scuffled offensively to start the season. Additionally, the starting rotation has been awful, with nobody having an ERA lower than 5. The As have also experienced misfortune on the injury front, with offseason signee and expected closer Trevor Rosenthal having to undergo Thoracic Outlet Surgery, one of the hardest procedures to come back from (for example, Matt Harvey). The As will now have to figure out who is going to close games for them this season while also correcting their issues with starting pitching and hitting. Perhaps replacing shortstop Marcus Semien with the aging Elvis Andrus in the offseason will have a more negative impact than the organization anticipated. I predict it will be more difficult for the Athletics to right the ship than the Braves, as the Oakland squad has many more question marks at the moment. I’d expect to see them third in the AL West standings behind the Astros and Angels when it’s all said and done. 

Written by: Blake Koziel 

Photo Source: Red Reporter

Behind the Seams with Blake: 5 Surprising Hitters of Spring Training with Regular Season Predictions

Let’s check out some of the most interesting top performers of Spring Training 2021!

Hello again readers! We are just days away from opening day of the 2021 MLB season, and I am excited to say the least. As many in the baseball world agree, spring training stats can be taken with a grain of salt in most cases. Regardless, I always love to pick out a few players not many expected to be at the top of the leaderboards and think about how these performances will impact their roles with their team for the coming season. In this post, I will discuss five players who are having great springs, including three under-the-radar sluggers on non-contending teams, one franchise great who hopes to pack a punch as a bench bat, and finally a slugger who hopes to prove doubters wrong and be an everyday player with a change of scenery. Additionally, following in the footsteps of the hosts of MLB Tonight, I’ll be giving my bold predictions of what each player’s stats will be by the end of the 2021 season.

Bobby Dalbec – 1B, Boston Red Sox

We’re starting out with a boom. As of Friday, Dalbec is tied for the MLB lead with 7 spring training homers in 42 at bats. The 2016 4th round pick has been putting up big time power numbers in the Red Sox minor league system since 2018, so it was expected that his power would transfer to big league production. That’s not to say Dalbec doesn’t have room for improvement however, as he showed some worrying strikeout tendencies along with his 8 home runs in 92 trips to the plate during the short 2020 season. He’s struck out 18 times in his 42 spring training at bats, so limiting the strikeouts remains a work in progress, but we can’t ignore the massive power potential that he has shown. The Red Sox will hope that he figures out how to keep the Ks at a minimum during a 2021 season in which they’re not expected to be a contender. If he can do so, Dalbec will surely be key to the Red Sox next World Series run.

Prediction: .260 AVG, 36 HRs, 195 strikeouts

C.J. Cron – 1B, Colorado Rockies

I’ve been excited to see what Cron can do in Coors Field since the moment I saw the signing. The former first round pick is currently hitting .372 with 4 big flies in 43 spring training at bats and looks to have won the starting first base job for the Rockies over former Yankee Greg Bird. Cron has shown plenty of pop over recent years but has had trouble sticking with one team for longer than a season since his Angels days early in his career. He will look to firmly establish his value and do damage in the middle of the order for a rebuilding Rockies team that traded superstar 3B Nolan Arenado away in the offseason. I’m going big with this prediction because I can see each of Trevor Story, C.J. Cron, and Charlie Blackmon having good seasons and making the loss of Arenado a little less painful for Rockies fans.

Prediction: .288 AVG, 41 HRs in 150+ games played

Ty France – 2B/1B/DH, Seattle Mariners

I’m happy to include former Padre and SDSU alum Ty France in this post, as he’s proving why he deserves a starting spot in the lineup for the rebuilding Mariners this season. He has posted a .364 average with 5 homers in 44 at bats this spring, keeping with his strengths of having great contact ability and sneaky power. He was drafted by the Padres in the 34th round out of San Diego State in 2015, so he’s always been a player I’ve rooted for because of that underdog storyline and the fact that we attended the same university. I’m glad that he will get the chance to be in the lineup everyday this season, even though it won’t be for the Padres, with whom he was primarily a bench bat due to the significant depth they have at the positions he plays. Will we see the 2nd coming of the Louisiana Purchase in Seattle this year? I predict the answer will be yes; the Mariners will get a lot from France this year.

Prediction: .315 AVG, 24 HRs in 550 ABs

Ryan Zimmerman – 1B, Washington Nationals

The man they call Mr. National has demolished spring training pitching this season, hitting a sky high .455 with 5 home runs through a smaller scale 22 spring at bats. There was nothing to suggest this production from Zim this year, as he’s entering his age 36 season after sitting out the 2020 season. The career-long National was the first player ever drafted by the team in 2005, and he’s stuck with them ever since. Preseason heroics aside, Zimmerman isn’t expected to play a large role for the team in 2021, as the Nats went out to make a big splash acquisition of first baseman Josh Bell during the offseason. Their desire to acquire Bell is completely understandable given the low expectations for Zim entering the season, along with Bell’s history of being a top 5 first baseman in the game as recently as 2019, and he’s looking great in spring as well. While I don’t believe Zim will continue this magical level of production through the regular season, I think he will deliver some big hits off the bench for a Nationals team that hopes to contend this season.

Prediction: .295 AVG, 12 HRs in 245 ABs

Joc Pederson – OF, Chicago Cubs

Joc signed with the Cubbies in the offseason because he wanted the chance to play every day and hit against lefties; something the Dodgers didn’t let him do very often. So far, Pederson is looking great as a Cub, as he is tied with Bobby Dalbec for the lead in spring training home runs with 7, to go along with a .366 average in 41 at bats. He and the Cubs will hope that he continues to produce above average results in the regular season as well, as the Cubs look to compete with the Cardinals and Brewers for a playoff spot this season.

Prediction: .250 AVG, 32 HRs, 500+ ABs for first time in career

Honorable Mention: Bobby Witt Jr. – SS prospect, Kansas City Royals

One of the biggest surprises of the spring was seeing the impressive tools of Royals top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. Though he’s never played above Rookie ball, the 20-year-old proved that he could hold his own against higher level competition before being sent down to the minor league camp. His crowning highlight was when he launched a 484-foot home run, leaving fans and teammates in awe. It may be a stretch to say that he’ll be called up during the 2021 season, but the future is bright for Witt and the Royals organization.

Written by: Blake Koziel @thek0zy1 on Instagram

Photo Source: