Album Review: Duke Deuce- Duke Nukem

The Memphis rapper delivers some fight club energy with this project.

Duke Deuce has been one of the frontrunners of Memphis’s emerging rap scene along with other artists like Blocboy JB and Young Dolph. As heard through songs like Crunk Ain’t Dead Remix and Crunk Ain’t Dead MOB, Deuce aims to evoke the rowdy vibe of 90s and 2000s Southern rap greats like Three 6 Mafia. Duke Nukem is no exception with Deuce delivering bangers on top of bangers that makes you want to throw someone through a wall.

The opening track Intro: Coming Out Hard is a strong reminder of Duke’s Memphis roots, with the title and funky sound reminiscent of the duo 8Ball & MJG and their 1992 album Comin’ Out Hard. Soldiers Steppin is arguably the album’s biggest highlight with its echoing drums and military-esque call and response rapping. Fell Up In The Club with A$AP Ferg continues the homage to Memphis with a sample of Paper Chaser by EP & Dow Jones. Gangsta Party brings energy into trap’s oversaturated trend of minimalistic piano-laden beats with a feature by Offset and Deuce’s almost sing-song delivery. Back 2 Back brings a vicious vibe with an icy beat and an even more aggressive presence by Deuce. One of the biggest strengths of the album is Duke’s presence as a rapper. Overall, the lyrics on this project are your typical gun-toting, sexual bravado, and gangbanging fare, but he elevates it through his energized delivery and ad-libs.

If there’s any weaknesses to this album, it’s simply because Duke doesn’t seek to provide anything groundbreaking to hip hop. However, this doesn’t necessarily indicate an overall weakness in his artistry. Army and Outro:Go 2 Hell are Duke’s foray into harmonized raps, but feels like tedious and odd fits compared to the album’s headbanging atmosphere. The simplistic  hook on Toot Toot with Young Dolph drags the song down despite some solid verses. Kirk with Mulatto is a solid track, but could feel repetitive with its piano-heavy production if compared with Gangsta Party.

Overall, Duke Nukem is an enjoyable project that serves a healthy heap of hardcore club bangers. If you need any music to rage out to, then this album is made for you.

Score: 7.5/10

Written by Kristian Gonzales

Picture Source: Medium



EP Review: Brent Faiyaz- Do Not Listen

Faiyaz returns with three new songs representing his gritty yet melodic sound.

Brent Faiyaz has had a hell of a year since the release of his EP F*ck the World. Since then, he’s been dropping singles such as Dead Man Walking and Gravity featuring Tyler the Creator along with appearances in other content such as the PGLang and Calvin Klein ad Solo. With his next album Make It Out Alive in the works, Faiyaz released his EP Do Not Listen on 2/8 as a surprise drop. This project continues to show Faiyaz’s blend of socially conscious and introspective themes with some brashness and indulgence

The track Circles featuring Purr is a reflection on independence and success in a world of social turmoil , as evident in lyrics such as “N****s dying everyday, but what can I say/They just want me to sing/ It’s like everyone wants you to think how they think and do what they say and stay out of the way/And if you don’t wanna, they got a problem with you.” The message of this track may remind listeners of the tensions surrounding 2020’s social movements like the Black Lives Matter protests and their influence on activism by public figures such as athletes and other celebrities. The track’s minimalist and claustrophobic production may be jarring to some, but fits its mood upon repeated listens. Paper Soldier featuring rapper Joony, with its funky and trap-influenced beat, is swaggering and cocky towards fame with the chorus: “I bet you wish that I was still right there, used to live right there, Now I’m everywhere, got bitches everywhere/I’m so debonair, I’m a millionaire, I act like I don’t care, that’s cause I don’t care.”

Arguably, the biggest highlight of the EP is Price of Fame, a two-part track with a bass-heavy first half slowing down into a guitar and vocal-heavy second half. Lines like “Is it cause my whip so fast you don’t see no flaws?/Is it cause my bitch so bad she blew you off?/All of the things they want” and “They don’t wanna give you time to heal, They just wanna bleed you dry for real” combined with the booming beat creates a sense of fame and debauchery crashing into you like a come down from a high. The second half enters some sort of therapeutic mood when Brent sings “You don’t need some to make you feel better than you’ve ever felt/What you need is someone who will be there when you don’t feel yourself,” which can be assumed as recognition of his music’s personal effect on people and need for fans to understand his longing for personal peace aside from his career.

Overall, Do Not Listen displays sincere songwriting skills that places Faiyaz on a much more intimate level than his peers in R&B. If the songs of this EP are signs of things to come, then we are in for a highly anticipated studio album later this year.

Score: 9/10

Written By: Kristian Gonzales

Mike’s Semester Survival Guide

Welcome back! I can’t believe that Winter Break is already over and another semester is here. Exactly like last semester, this semester will be fully online for classes. If you didn’t do well last semester with the all-online format, here are some tips to help get you through this semester.

Use A Calendar

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Apple Calendar from MacOs Big Sur from Apple YouTube Channel

Whether it is your phone, computer, or a paper calendar, it is essential to stay organized throughout the semester. I love to use my phone calendar. I have an iPhone and MacBook Pro and using my iCloud account, the two sync together, which is perfect when entering assignment due dates and virtual appointments.

If I enter an assignment on my iPhone, it automatically shows up on my MacBook calendar and vice versa. Android users can use their Google account synced with their android and use google calendar.

School Hack: Canvas, our new learning management system in which we submit assignments, has a feature where you can connect their calendar with your own, so all assignments professors enter with due dates can be automatically entered on your calendar.

More information on how to add events to Google Calendar are available here and for iCal (Apple Calendar) here.

Use A To-Do List

Photo Credit: Screenshot of todoist app from todoist.com

You have your calendar to keep track of assignments, which is great, but having a to-do list is also important. Being able to plan out assignments without putting exact times is important in keeping you organized.

I use a to-do app called todoist. I can organize everything by category (homework, class, work, cleaning, etc.) to let me know what I need to get done for that day. It is important to focus on one day at a time so you do not feel overwhelmed. Focus on what projects/tasks need to be done for that day and that day only and get them done.

Take Advantage of Office Hours

Photo Credit: Office Hours Clip Art from nextgengovt.com

Virtual learning is not easy, one thing we have learned from the previous semester. My suggestion to help you this semester? Take advantage of office hours with all of your professors. Hold yourself accountable in attending office hours and schedule it like a meeting on your calendar.

Office hours are the perfect time to check in with your professor to ensure you are on the right track in class, clarify any confusing concepts, or asking a simple question. You do not need to be there the entire time, but checking in can help you stay on track throughout the semester. Remember, your professors are here to help you.

Use School Resources

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Coding from heylagostechie on Unsplash

Even though we are fully online our school resources are still available to us virtually. The library on-site may be closed however everything has transitioned online. You can chat with a librarian who can guide you in the direction of finding research materials for a project.

You can access the entire library database remotely from home. Need a hard copy of a book? Not a problem. The library is offering domeside book pickup for students who need physical copies of materials. For more information on Library materials, you can visit the library website.

Have a paper due and need some feedback before submitting it? The writing center offers both live (real-time) appointments and “e-tutoring” appointments.

A tutor will provide written comments on a paper within 48 hours of the appointment day and time. You can learn more about the writing center appointments by visiting their website.

Need help with math? The Math and Stats Learning Center has transitioned virtually and has live tutors available via zoom. You can learn more about the Math & Stats Learning Center by visiting their website here.

Make Your Health a Priority

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Healthy Food from Brooke Lark on Unsplash

The pandemic is still here, we are still learning virtually, and places are still closed. It is essential for us to take care of our physical and mental health during this time.

When visiting the grocery store stock your cart with more fruits, veggies, and protein than processed food like chips, power bars, candy, and drinks. It is ok for a treat once a week but most of the week we should be eating healthy.

Here are some healthy recipes to get you started. In addition to eating healthy, working out is essential.

Sweating it out by completing a workout has proved improved mood and handling of stress. Even if it is for 30 minutes, take the time to complete a workout that you find on YouTube or check with your local gym to see if they’re operating outdoors. Remember to check in with your doctor before starting any new workout routine.

Schedule “me” time

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Surfer from Daniel Guerra on Unsplash

Every day we should be scheduling “me” time and this should not include your workout as that is mandatory for physical health. For mental health, we should select an activity that we enjoy and want to do, but stop scrolling social media.

We need to take a break. “Me” time can be anything from journaling to facetime with a friend or family member.

Take 60 minutes out of our day to watch a favorite tv show, go for a run, or practicing meditation.

Don’t forget to also stay hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day. Self-care is essential for our mental health and keeps us going through the semester.

If at any point you are struggling emotionally throughout the semester there are campus resources available here to point you in the right direction to get back on track.

Good luck this semester, remember to take it one day at a time and check in with me on social media @MikeStarkCA on Twitter and Instagram to let me know what tips worked for you and if you have some to share with me.

Written By: Mike Stark | @MikeStarkCA

Cover Photo Credit: Computer Desk from Galymzhan Abdugalimov on Unsplash

Artists’ Blueprint: Tyler The Creator

The rapper/songwriter/producer and creative force isn’t the first in hip hop to expand creative boundaries for the genre.

Tyler the Creator has been one of hip hop’s defining acts this past decade, from his angsty and controversial work during his time with the collective Odd Future like Yonkers and Tamale, to a shift for a more introspective and soulful sound with See You Again and Earfquake. With his evolution as an artist, Tyler expanded his brand with ventures such as the annual Camp Flog Gnaw Festival in Los Angeles, his GOLF brand of streetwear along with a flagship store, and shows such as the sketch comedy Loiter Squad and the animated series The Jellies for Adult Swim. Despite his reputation as one of the most ambitious creative minds in the rap game, it is worth mentioning artists similar to Tyler and also cited as his inspirations.

Pharrell Williams

The songwriter/producer/singer/rapper is usually credited as Tyler’s biggest creative influence. Tyler has publicly expressed his love for Pharrell’s work, especially seen in his Facebook post commemorating the 10th anniversary of the producer’s debut album In My Mind. In this post, he praises Pharrell’s attributes such as his penchant for jazz and r&b chords and basslines influenced by the likes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and his love for previously uncommon subject matter such as high end fashion brands (like Hermes) and skateboarding. This interview with Mass Appeal is another example of The Neptunes’ stylistic influence on Tyler as he talks further about these topics. Tyler’s gone on to collaborate with Pharrell on songs like IFHY and tracks such as Rose Tinted Cheeks are compared to Pharrell’s sound of outer space electronic funk.

Kanye West

Like Pharrell, Kanye is another creative influence on Tyler as a multi-talented artist in hip hop and budding entrepreneur. In an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, Tyler mentioned his love for West’s 2018 album Ye, praising the project for its honesty in subject matter, along with crediting him in a list of artists who practice complex techniques and sounds in music like chord progressions and live instrumentation. In other interviews and public appearances, Tyler has talked about their common interests, including art, Kanye’s ability to look normal in various colors for his Yeezy fashion line as an inspiration for Tyler’s GOLF brand, and his defiance of black male stereotypes. The two artists have collaborated on songs like Smuckers off Tyler’s 2015 album Cherry Bomb and Puppet off his 2019 album Igor.

Various Neo-Soul/R&B Artists

Strictly on the musical sphere of influence, Tyler has repeatedly gushed about his love for r&b music and its sub genre neo-soul, which blends live instrumentation with hip hop influence. In the same interview with Zane Lowe, he discusses topics like Janet Jackson’s collaborations with producer duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the multi-layered and melodic song structures of Erykah Badu and D’Angelo and the euphoric feelings he got as a fan of artists like Brandy. In another interview with Funkmaster Flex of Hot 97, he credited other childhood influences such as Faith Evans, Mary J Blige, and Zhane. He gave a special shout out to Zhane’s producer Kay Gee for his blend of rough hip hop beats with pretty melodies as the basis for his own style. In an interview with comedian Jerrod Carmichael, Tyler referenced artists such as Tony Toni Tone and Stevie Wonder, especially the latter with his vocal melodies and chords. In his work, Tyler has sampled acts like the Gap Band for songs such as  911/Mr Lonely along with a feature by Badu on his 2013 track Treehome95.

The musical and stylistic footprints of these artists are still evident through Tyler and he carries their torch as a representative for hip hop’s future evolution into newer sonic boundaries and self expression, possibly inspiring a wave of newer artists as his idols did.

Written by: Kristian Gonzales

Feature Image: Fader