By: Tommy “T-Rod” Rodriguez

Compared to last week, the music industry seems to have cooled off a bit on the big-ticket releases…but that doesn’t mean that heat hasn’t dropped. Today’s music reviews will cover records that dropped last week, as well as some from a bit earlier this month I didn’t have the time to cover. From crunk to indie, let’s check out some more stuff that’s been on repeat for me!

Lupe Fiasco – Drill Music in Zion

When you think of hip-hop as an art, the ability to use words as paint for a canvas, Lupe Fiasco should be one of the first to come to mind. Lupe is one of the most talented names in hip-hop right now: his technical ability is unmatched, his storytelling hits the perfect balance of abstract and direct, his philosophy potent. Drill Music in Zion is a perfect example of why Lupe deserves so much respect, a focused record dedicated to the culture of hip-hop itself…including the violence, greed, and abuse so many industry players deal and are dealt. From the get-go on “The Lion’s Deen,” the canvas and colors are set: the music industry is very much a lion’s den where Lupe and so many other MCs have to avoid getting eaten. This concept is explored in numerous angles on the album: “Precious Things” is all about the cycle of neglect many rappers face with from poor management and friendships, “Kiosk” delves into the traps of greed and materialism, “On Faux Nem” is a powerful plea for artist deaths to end. The album is extremely focused on pushing this poetry to the forefront, with “Ms. Mural” being one of the most incredible displays of wordplay and multi-phased commentary I’ve heard in 2022. The concept of the album isn’t Lupe’s sole goal, however. This album, entirely produced by Soundtrakk, sounds great. The use of jazz rap horns and boom bap drums on “Naomi” is perfect for Lupe’s cypher-like verses, “Autoboto” has hard hitting 808s that get the blood boiling, “Seattle” features a very pretty guitar loop. Couple these great beats and rhymes with some solid appearances from vocalist Nayirah, and you have one of the best rap records of the year.

Soccer Mommy – Sometimes, Forever

There’s something about Soccer Mommy’s brand of indie rock that really makes me happy to be sad. Or sad to be happy, depending on the day. This perfect clash of emotions is felt on Sometimes, Forever, her first project since 2020’s Colors and one of my favorite indie drops of the year. The production here is perfect for a summer evening drive. The acoustic guitars and lazy drums on opener “Bones” are both pretty and layered as a guitar solo wails over increasing intensity, “Shotgun” has a Nirvana-esque bassline over marching snares and spectral vocals before they explode into a flowery chorus. The sound of the album is great, yes, but Sophie Allison (Soccer Mommy) shines when she digs deep into some soulful, damn-near spiritual melancholy. “Unholy Affliction” is an evil-sounding track, loaded with gruesome imagery and lines about tasting affliction on the tongue, “Feel It All The Time” describes Allison avoiding her serious relationship problems with temporary distractions, “Still” is a track that is all about admitting you may have messed up in a bad relationship. The sound of the album is very bright, the songwriting catchy and immediate…but these verses hit different. Any self-respecting indie head or fan of soft, reflective music has to give Sometimes, Forever a shot!

Duke Deuce – Crunkstar

If there’s an artist you desperately need to watch right now, it’s Memphis rapper Duke Deuce. Besides being an incredibly consistent rapper with the technicals and dance moves to back up his unhinged raps and ad-libs, Deuce is easily one of the best reasons for why crunk isn’t dead. On Crunkstar, Duke levels up in a big way, extending the rhymes, features, and tracklist for one of his most ambitious records yet…and it hits. The album feels like one big live set, partially due to the nice concert transitions laced into the album, partially because the energy of this album is electric, partially because there’s so many hits. “Crunkstarz” is a great intro, mixing a psychedelic beat with hard hitting snares and an infectious vocal line, only to be followed by a nasty, straightforward Memphis rap anthem on “I Ain’t Worried Bout It.” This kind of diversity is all over Crunkstar, and almost every single sound Deuce attempts goes off without a hitch. “Falling Off” is a fiery rap metal scream match with Rico Nasty, “Money Bandana” is a murderous trunk knocker, “I’m Alive Again” sees Deuce flex his incredibly catchy songwriting and capable singing voice. Duke’s influences are clear throughout, with the sound of Memphis legends trickling into some great tracks. “Just Say That” is a testament to that influence, with a creepy piano melody creeping behind infectious shouts and an incredible Glorilla feature. I can damn near feel Deuce and Glorilla channeling the chemistry of Three Six Mafia. Crunkstars may be long, but there’s surprisingly few misses and a whole lot of hits here for you to enjoy. Here’s to hoping Duke Deuce continues his hot streak.

Joyce Manor – 40 Oz. to Fresno

Over the past few years, I feel like I’ve definitely fallen away from my emo and rock listening habits. Not to say that there hasn’t been good stuff in those genres, more so I just keep forgetting to dive back in…40 Oz. to Fresno was the first album in a while that made me want to run those genres back. Joyce Manor is great at giving you exactly what you need: great instrumentals, lots of energy and character, and a pretty solid pen. While this album isn’t mind-blowing, I’d say that it’s a very solid example of how emo rock can still kick ass. “Souvenir” has some awesome guitar leads that open the record up with a bang, a great power pop banger that makes you feel like the main character in a movie. This energy is spread throughout the album, often used in pretty creative and fun ways, whether it be a cheeky down-on-your-luck anthem on “You’re Not Famous Anymore” or the nostalgic storytelling on “Gotta Let It Go.” The choruses on this album are the secret weapon, often exploding in a colorful and cathartic fashion, especially when paired with a sick instrumental like the punky “NBTSA” or the cute dance rock of “Dance With Me.” 40 Oz. to Fresno may be short, but it gives you exactly what you want from an emo album: great hooks, great character and instrumentals that dig as deep as a fit of rage.

That’s just to me though. What did you guys think about these albums, any duds or bangers you think I should’ve mentioned? Sound off in the comments below to give me your thoughts and feedback. I’ll see you guys soon! is your one stop shop for a music fan’s music reviews, profiles, and essays. By the youth, for the youth, and allied with all oldheads, everywhere. Leave a comment below on what you want to see next!

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