1st Listen Reviews (14/01): Earl Sweatshirt, Gunna, FKA Twigs, Cordae & 2 Chainz

It’s been a while since I last did this segment but hey, with the week we just had in music? I just had to write about the many releases that came out – since when was January this packed with quality?

From the elusive Earl Sweatshirt’s long-awaited comeback to FKA Twigs’ mainstream-leaning mixtape to East Coast prodigy Cordae’s sophomore album, we have A LOT to enjoy this weekend.

Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!

Genre: Rap

I loved Doris when it first dropped, the grimy angst that fuelled Earl’s music (and seemingly his very existence) was infectious and made for an engaging listen. However, his follow up projects I Don’t Like Shit…, Some Rap Songs and FEET OF CLAY all went down the route of less being more – both in their underground hip-hop production and song lengths.

Earl honed his skills and became one of the most impressive lyricists I know of, but his music slowly lost its charm and every listen became more of a chore than anything. They were experiences I had to sit down and pay attention to if not I’d have run the risk of having them drowned out and become background noise.

So I’m glad SICK! seems to harken back to his early 2013-energy when he hops on dark contemporary trap beats on “Lobby (int)”, while also sounding more assured than ever before on the lo-fi sound he’s been enamoured with on the majority of the album. The songs are still short (though it does have some of his longest in a while), Earl finally feels like he’s willing to step into the spotlight. The result is arguably his most engrossing and accessible record in nearly a decade.


Gunna – DS4EVER

Genre: Trap

I hated Wunna on first listen but it grew on me over the years and it’s now one of my favourite trap projects ever. I’m currently lukewarm on DS4EVER so maybe I’ll love it even more in the future?

It does feel like wishful thinking though given how, fundamentally, DS4EVER‘s production just doesn’t hold a candle to Wunna‘s warbly and amusing beats. They’re serviceable but these sounds are dime a dozen, and no matter how smooth Gunna glides over them, you just can’t force memorability from the conventional.


Genre: Pop, R&B

Hot take but CAPRISONGS might just become my favourite FKA Twigs project after LP1. I always loved her music that could rock me out of my chair instead of the quiet introspective cuts, which is why “Holy Terrain” remains a standout on Magdalene for me (an album I couldn’t really get into).

You can tell Twigs absolutely revelled in making this mixtape because her excitement just oozes through on nearly every track. From lead single “tears in the club” with The Weeknd to the Shygirl assisted “papi bones” to the hyperpop-influenced “which way” – Twigs penchant for experimenting is still present but the accessibility of the contemporary pop elements are the star on CAPRISONGS, making for an instantly gratifying and surprisingly easygoing listening experience.


Cordae – From A Birds Eye View

Genre: Rap

On The Lost Boy, there were glimpses of Cordae finding a sound of his own – combining his influences from both old school and new school hip-hop into a soulful record that was genuine and captivating. His sophomore album From A Birds Eye View largely captures that same feeling, honing the sound and leaving us with a handful of tracks that prove his dedication to becoming a “bridge” between the two schools.

“Jean-Michel”, “Momma’s Hood” and “C Carter” are all shining examples of these. However, it’s when he commits to a contemporary sound when Cordae begins to sound like a rapper out of his time. For every banger like “Super”, there are awkward offerings such as “Today” with Gunna and “Sinister” with Lil Wayne. They aren’t bad tracks, but definitely are very forgettable and obstruct an otherwise great album.

2 Chainz – Million Dollars Worth of Game

Genre: Rap, Trap

If this truly is 2 Chainz’ last trap album then he’d end off his run with an undeniable legacy, which unfortunately ends on a whimper of a record. Aside from him retreading old ground, 2 Chainz’ trademark charisma and humour are nowhere to be found – only replaced by outdated song structures and boring performances. It’s one of the weakest 2 Chainz projects in a long, long while.


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