Peep This Joint: Saba – Care for Me Album Review

Filled with an overwhelming sense of grief and emptiness, Chicago rapper Saba unveils the candid experience of losing a best friend over a senseless murder in his sophomore effort, Care for Me.

The album released last year on April 5 and highlights Saba’s emotions over the death of his cousin, Walter Long Jr.

In a time where mental health awareness is higher than it’s ever been historically, Care for Me provides a refreshing and therapeutic musical experience for those who’ve been through similar grief. 

The project begins with Saba singing, “I’m so alone” on the two-part track “BUSY/SIRENS” featuring R&B singer, theMIND. Lamenting over the loneliness of losing his right-hand man, the rawness of the track is palpable as Saba raps, “Jesus got killed for our sins, Walter got killed for a coat / I’m tryna cope, but it’s a part of me gone / In this packed room I’m alone.” 

Saba’s personal grief intimately captures and processes the darker side of mental health issues that individuals worldwide experience and can relate to. Tracks such as “BROKEN GIRLS,” “GREY,” and “LOGOUT” featuring Chance the Rapper explore notions of heartbreak, loneliness, and insecurities over social media.

Tracklist cover from: Genius

Despite these overarching somber themes, Saba skillfully structures and balances the tracklist with moments of light-hearted nostalgia. One track that exemplifies this is the track “SMILE” which recounts Saba’s childhood experience living with his grandmother. In it he expresses his desire to escape the confines of Chicago that remind him of his gloomier days, “All that I am is my family these days / Moment of madness I can’t seem to evade,” and “Our parents’ parents are from the South / And if I make a million dollars / I’ll vacation in the South.” Songs such as these help even out bleak nature of the album.

The most compelling record overall though is the penultimate track, “PROM/KING” which runs a lengthy seven-and-a-half minutes long. Despite the long runtime, the album reaches a climax with Saba at his most intimate and rawest form as he goes from recounting the details of his prom night where he first met Walter to describing his last interactions with him before receiving the news of his untimely death. 

Saba opens up the first part of the song harkening back to his earlier days as a young high school student rapping, “This remind me of before we had insomnia / Sleepin’ peacefully, never needed a pile of drugs.” Over piano keys and minimal drums, Saba flows effortlessly as he gives listeners the rundown on what happened during prom night. The production then switches as Saba turns the subject matter towards reminiscing on Walter’s final days. In the final bars of the song, Saba paints a vivid picture that reveals how he found out the news of his cousin’s death:

“Ten minutes into the session, I got a call from a number/ 

That I don’t got saved, but I answer anyways/

She says, ‘Hello, Malik, have you or Squeak/ 

Talked to my son today? He was just on the train’/

We got in the car but we didn’t know where to drive to

Fuck it, wherever you are my n–a, we’ll come and find you…”

As Saba spits the final verse, the drums on the beat speed up in an anxiety-inducing pace to convey the same anxiety Saba felt in his chest as Walter’s mother reveals to him that Walter is missing. 

Picture taken from: Genius

Overall, I consider this album to be a perfect 10/10 in my books. Through this album, Saba was able to put words into the same feelings and emotions of depression and anxiety that I’ve been struggling to deal with. In doing so, the Chicago rapper was able to produce a body of work that resonates not only with me, but countless other individuals going through times of grief and depression. If you’ve asked what my top rap album of 2018 was, Care for Me takes the spot.

For the love of hip-hop, please peep this joint if you haven’t already!

Rating: 10/10

Written by: Johann Oribello

Last Dinosaurs: Yumeno Garden Album Review

On October 5, 2018, Last Dinosaurs released their new album, Yumeno Garden, which is a ten-track record with a completely revamped, refreshing sound. Each track is different yet embodies the mix of pop-synth and indie rock that Last Dinosaurs is known for.

The band has only recently started touring around the United States among other countries but has made big hits all over the globe — showcasing their talent at many major cities. They recently played in Chile, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico and are now on a tour around the United States. The band made an appearance in San Diego last month at SOMA, on October 29. This will be their first time in San Diego!

Yumeno Garden was the Brisbane trio’s first release since Wellness, their second album, in 2015. It was anticipated by fans all around the world and definitely has a different but great shift in sound. This new record is a lot more punchy, in the face, and clean but in the best way. The band definitely mixed things up when putting these new songs together. There is an experimental feel to it, yet still maintains the backbone of sound that Last Dinosaurs established in their first two albums.

After their first two, successful albums, In A Million Years and Wellness, the band established themselves in the music community, especially in the indie rock and pop areas. Old tracks such as “Zoom” and “Honolulu” are well known among indie listeners. The last two albums were guitar and synth riff-centered, their new music sounds very full and more lively. The drums, bass, and overall production is boosted and shows a growth within the bands sound and a newly developed sense of maturity. It is a lot less indie rock and a bit more psychedelic and progressive.

Last Dinosaurs via Instagram
Photograph by Nicole J. Stephens

I would best describe the genres of this album as a mix of indie rock, disco and a bit of psychedelic pop. There is definitely more synth and a grittier sound with more distortion on the guitar and vocals than before. Each track has its own unique progression and solo with great lyrical hooks and meanings. Yumeno Garden is a positive and catchy album and is one I never get sick of listening to it.

The album starts out more upbeat, with “Eleven,” “Dominoes,” “Bass God,” and “Sense.” These songs evoke an indie rock tribute, being primarily catchy electric guitar and synth riffs with a faster-paced rhythm section behind them. The second half of the LP sounds more 80s inspired, with slower yet groovy tempos and feelings.

One of my favorite tracks has to be “Shallow Boy.” The song is built up to the choruses, which are distinctive and melancholy with different synth leads overpowering each other and various stops. The verses in this song sound like they are riding a wave accompanied by funky guitar strums and hard hi-hat and snare hits.

The band has recently released a new single, “FMU,” an upbeat funk indie-pop song that has great build-ups made by catchy guitar chord progressions and descending melody line. The bridge slows down and gradually brings the song back into place through great drum fills and bass lines that move so smoothly they’re hardly audible. We can see from this new single that Last Dinosaurs is definitely headed in a new direction, adopting changes around their previously rooted sound. I, for one, am excited to see where they are headed next.

Written by: Jesse Miller

Peep This Joint: Top 3 Rap Albums From The 2000s

So for this week’s post, I figured I would write on what I personally consider three essential rap albums from the 2000s that y’all have to check out.

The 2000s marked an interesting time period for the genre, as the golden age of hip-hop tragically came to a close with the deaths of two G.O.A.T.s that forever changed the game. But, their deaths did not end in vain as their legacies paved the way for new artists to rise and take the throne. A lot of rappers coming up were hungry to take the mantle and the works they put out during this era reflected that ambition. These projects are not put in any order of importance so don’t mind that. Instead, just peep these albums because they are literally all great albums not just in this era but in general!

1. The Black Album – Jay-Z

Album cover from: Genius

First up, Jay-Z’s The Black Album! Released in 2003, This album was supposed to be his last project ever and revolves thematically around his impending retirement. If you’re a hip-hop head, you know that anytime a rapper says their retiring, chances are they’re lying. Jay-Z during this time definitely seemed serious though as he was laying down some of his hardest verses ever in this project. Take one of my favorite Jay songs ever, “What More Can I Say” where he jumps out the gate in his first verse: 

There’s never been a n‐‐a this good for this long/

This hood or this pop, this hot or this strong/

With so many different flows, this one’s for this song/

The next one I switch up, this one will get bit up/

Before this album came out, Jay already had seven projects under his belt and a few of them were blunders for a rapper of his caliber. Despite that, his last five albums debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts which speaks on the magnitude of his popularity and pen. With some of Kanye’s best beats during his soulful sample era, this project is filled with diverse flows and beats that elevated some of Jay’s best bars. 

2. The College Dropout – Kanye West

Album cover from: Genius

Next up is an album very near and dear to my heart as it is an introduction to one of the biggest enigmas in music today as well as my favorite artist of all time, The College Dropout by Kanye West. His massive impact on the sound and direction of the genre will never go unrecognized. The album that started it all is an exceptional introduction to the polarizing figure that many love and hate today. The College Dropout also marks a monumental shift to a more conscious yet accessible, “suburban” sound compared to traditional gangster records that was dominant at the time. Songs such as “All Falls Down,” “Spaceship,” “Jesus Walks,” and “Through the Wire” all focus more on conscious and substantive lyrics instead of the typical gritty street bars. Nonetheless, this project is a classic 2000s album that inspired and influenced many popular artists today and forever changed the game.

3. Madvillainy – Madvillain

Album cover from: Genius

Speaking of game-changing projects, Madvillainy by the duo Madvillain consisting of artists MF DOOM and Madlib shook the underground rap scene. Madvillainy is every backpacker’s quintessential rap album of all time, and with good reason too. A collaboration album between underground legends MF DOOM and Madlib is every backpacker’s dream and the critical reception of Madvillainy proved just how dynamic and successful the duo could be. The entire project has Madlib on the production boards while DOOM spits at top form. Songs like “All Caps,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and “Fancy Clown” demonstrate his unique flow that makes him a one-of-a-kind artist.

You already know these projects are all 10/10…go peep them!

Written By: Johann Oribello

Peep This Joint: JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs Album Review

All My Heroes are Cornballs marks a shift from Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA’s signature visceral sound as his latest project trades his aggressive energy for more melodic flows.

This project is JPEGMAFIA’s third studio album after the critically acclaimed Veteran which received much applause from critics for its off-kilter production and politically charged lyrical content. Despite the surprising incorporation of singing and more melodic content on All My Heroes, JPEGMAFIA successfully expands his artistry by including more vulnerable lyrics concerning his newfound success and utilizing new melodies that aren’t as prominent in his discography. 

For those new to JPEGMAFIA, he is a rap artist hailing from Baltimore best known for his experimental sound that includes glitchy production with brash lyrics and provocative song titles. Take the song “I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies” from Veteran, which addresses singer Morrissey’s racist controversy with a merch t-shirt of activist James Baldwin. JPEGMAFIA aka “Peggy” has gained a cult-like fanbase with his unapologetic approach to his projects. 

Coming off a successful sophomore effort, Peggy continued his method of producing, mixing and mastering all tracks on his albums. He wrote on his Bandcamp page for All My Heroes that he felt obligated to make a successful album after Veteran’s reception. “This album is really a thank you to my fans tbh,” he wrote. “Veteran was the first time in my life I worked hard on something, and it was reciprocated back to me. This the most ME album I’ve ever made in my life.” 

His focus on creating an album that expresses himself fully turned up successful with this project where he reveals more aspects of his identity than what we were initially exposed to in his past discography. Right off the bat, the projects opens with “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot” where Peggy spits defiant bars over a sparsely-filled instrumental. He ramps up this aggressive energy at the end of each verse with a booming bass that’s very reminiscent of his past work until the chorus hits. A quick juxtaposition fills the listener’s ears as Peggy switches from yelling to auto-tuned crooning over a seamless beat switch. This shift to more melodic singing isn’t new to fans of Peggy, but is a more prominent aspect of this project compared to his previous work. 

The song, “Kenan Vs. Kel” highlights this shift where Peggy croons in auto-tune, “I don’t know this,” as he laments over his nervousness in having more well-known artists wanting to feature on his songs. This vulnerability in dealing with his new-found success is expressed as Peggy asks in the chorus, “How we gon’ make this work?/ But like, how can I make a good beat?” His vulnerability in this song signifies a change in his image from a defiant, “in your face” type of rapper to a more introspective and sensitive individual struggling with fame and success. 

Despite the shift, JPEGMAFIA still remains true to the confrontational and brash nature of his lyrics that many fans associate him with some of his other works on this album. Take the song, “Beta Male Strategies” for example, where he addresses keyboard warriors who criticize vehemently online yet hide behind internet anonymity. In this song, Peggy spits, “Say what you said on Twitter right now/ You only brave with a board and a mouse,” and leaves them with a warning, “Don’t get capped by a n‐‐a in a muhfuckin’ gown.” The song title itself also bolsters his bashfulness as he refers to these keyboard warriors as beta males. Songs such as this are familiar territory for JPEGMAFIA fans and remind listeners that despite his vulnerability in his latest work, he is still as loud and abrasive as ever.

If you’re a fan of JPEGMAFIA and haven’t listened to this project yet, you should definitely give this record a spin. Some songs that I recommend checking out are: “Jesus, Forgive Me, I Am A Thot”, “Grimy Waifu”, and “Free the Frail”. Overall, the inclusion of more melodic content that starkly differs from JPEGMAFIA’s past work marks a significant growth in his art and helps elevate his status as an up-and-coming rapper.

Peep this joint if you haven’t already!

Rating: 7.5 / 10 

Written by: Johann Oribello