Greetings, all.

So, after last week’s WCW-influenced cluster-you-know-what, let’s switch some gears here.

August Alsina’s proper debut Testimony dropped this week. To be honest, I’d somewhat forgotten about Alsina’s ghetto gospel-tinged tracks since “I Luv This S***” didn’t get as much play as I thought it would thought that his style was a bit too gritty for R&B. I mean, Tha Product 2 was a beautiful mix of real life themes and hip-hop-based bravado. It’s like someone took The Weeknd’s honesty, took the “fun” from it and added in the story of, for instance, a Yo Gotti (who Alsina worked with, coincidentally enough, on Testimony). So, I put Alsina on the back-burner, because as much as I looked forward to his full-length debut, I feared it. Why? Well, tell me the last time an R&B album that wasn’t really a traditional R&B album, but instead steeped in hip-hop, came out as well as it should have.

And no, Kiss Land doesn’t count. That album was on another level. Plus, it wasn’t exactly “steeped in hip-hop.”

Testimony begins with “Testify,” an atonement of sorts. It sets the mood for the album (so-called real n**** s***” sung over strip-club-friendly production) and acts as Alsina’s “Dreams and Nightmares” intro. But, after lofty expectations from the intro, the album stays in neutral for a lot of the sixty-one-or-so minutes it exists. It doesn’t steer too far from familiar topics and doesn’t really offer that much more insight into this young man’s life. Essentially, if you’ve heard Tha Product or its sequel you’ll have heard this album. That’s not to say it’s not worth a listen. It’s a solid full-length debut and he’s improving in his songwriting…and not relying on four-letter-words to get his point across all the time. Just don’t expect anything “brand new.” I still recommend you check it out though, especially the Pusha T-assisted “FML.”

(Album stream is the edited deluxe version on Spotify.)

 

On another note, of course, it’s the 20-year-anniversary of Illmatic, the GAWD CD. I’ve nothing to say about this except, if you’ve never heard this CD and call yourself a rap fan, I feel ashamed for you and your family. The XX edition features some remixes of the original album (mainly three remixes of “It Ain’t Hard To Tell”) and is pretty cool to see this CD hasn’t exactly aged horribly, as even the boombap feel has started to come back (thank you Joey Bada$$ and more). I think it’s safe to say that Nas has not–and will not–lose with this one. If you put out an album that’s still heralded as a classic twenty years later–and still inspires artists to drop some bars (shameless plug), you win.

(Album stream below is NSFW; edited version not available on Spotify at the moment)

 

To stream Future’s new album Honest courtesy of MTV.com simply click the album cover art below. Unfortunately it is unsafe for listening on your office speakers, so you may want to plug those headphones in if you’re at work. The album is surprisingly good. Although, as with Alsina’s album there isn’t much new ground broken, but it keeps you intrigued. I mentioned this on Twitter, but Future’s Dungeon Family heritage is starting to shine through with this one, as it’s a great mix between turn-up anthems, lover-man Auto-Tune rap-sung songs (although “I Won” is a bit too pandering for my taste) and hood stories. In some ways, it complements Alsina’s Testimony perfectly, as one tells the story of the young man trying to make it (Testimony), the other tells the story of the older man who’s already made it, but still sees the world as ripe for the picking (Honest).

vibe-future-honest-cover

Wow, three thumbs up in one week. Either I’m losing my touch or music’s starting to just get better.

Until next time.

-Speed on the Beat

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