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Album Review: Prince Daddy & The Hyena by Prince Daddy & The Hyena

Photo Credit to Pure Noise Records

By Matt Kelly

It was around this time three years ago that I heard Prince Daddy & The Hyena for the first time. I was cruising around my hometown with my best friends and blasting music with the windows down without a care in the world. Nothing was more exhilarating for a bunch of 17 year old suburbanites who just got their licenses. Toward the end of the night, someone decided to play “I Lost My Life”, the opening track to Prince Daddy & The Hyena’s second LP Cosmic Thrill Seekers. What I didn’t know at that moment was that I was about to listen to my favorite band for the first time. Hearing lead singer Kory Gregory’s signature blood curdling screams over an acoustic guitar was equal parts jarring and fascinating. Once the acoustic instrumental gave way to crashing electric guitars and drums that matched the intensity of the vocals, I had fallen in love. Prince Daddy’s punk party anthems about weed and feeling inadequate were right up my alley in terms of music taste and relatability. I would have been just fine with them releasing the same type of music for the rest of their careers, but Prince Daddy is a band with greater aspirations than sticking to a formula. With the recent release of their self-titled third LP via Pure Noise Records, Prince Daddy & The Hyena have shown that they are maturing into the band they were always meant to become.

Prince Daddy & The Hyena is a journey that began in November 2018. The band was driving home at the end of a tour during a blizzard when their van slid off the highway and crashed into a snow plow. Thankfully, everyone was okay, but Kory Gregory came away from that crash with a haunting thought: the undeniable truth that life is impermanent and that we do not know what comes next. Also known as thanatophobia, death anxiety had plagued Gregory’s mind, and it was in this state that Prince Daddy & The Hyena was written. The result: a concept album about the fear of death. 

The opening track “Adore The Sun” lures in the listener with its ethereal sound complete with uncharacteristically clean vocals. In this track he is struggling to appreciate the beauty in life because of the dark thoughts that sprout from his obsession with death. As it comes to a close, the track seamlessly transitions into the punk rager “A Random Exercise in Impermanence (The Collector)”, indicating that Gregory’s fear of death has won over and the true journey of this record has begun. It sounds like a car crash as he belches “the passenger almost died today”, which alludes to the accident that started it all, but also to a character from Cosmic Thrill Seekers called the passenger which is an extension of Gregory himself. In addition to the passenger, this track introduces a recurring character called the collector, representing death and/or depression in corporal form. Throughout the album, a lot of the previously mentioned “dark thoughts” are portrayed through this new character.

The run of tracks that follow only continue to perpetuate the idea of a car crash as you are whipped back and forth between slow, fast, heavy, and light sounds. Regardless of the style that Prince Daddy goes for, the lyrics are sure to be dark. Weezer-esque “Jesus F*****g Christ” gets bitter about religion, and “Something Special” sounds like a fun campfire sing-along but lyrically describes being followed and harassed by (what I assume to be) the collector. Gregory sings, “As if a puppeteer, he whispers in my ear / ‘You goddamn kids, I’m the son of a bitch who makes it hard to sleep / I’m never gonna leave’ / Dear God, just leave”. Both these tracks explore the obsessive nature of Gregory’s mind; no matter how hard he tries to avoid his thoughts about death, they always come back. For a moment, however, a glimpse of optimism is expressed in the emotionally intelligent “El Dorado”. This track opens with a synth-led verse that references “Adore The Sun” to reiterate that Gregory struggles to appreciate the beauty in life. This time around, he attempts to break free from the shackles of his mental health. Ripping electric guitars cut through the synths as he sings “Let’s give it a fresh start tomorrow / let’s try to shine like el dorado / symmetry don’t come easily”. The chorus sounds like it could be from an entirely different song, but Prince Daddy finds a way to make these different sounds mesh perfectly. “El Dorado” is the first of many highlights in this chaotic LP. 

“Hollow, As You Figured” eliminates any hint of optimism from the previous track as Gregory admits, “Well I found my god and he’s hollow as you figured / He’s just one big black rodent that chews apart my liver and spreads black mold”. I interpreted this god as another instance of the collector, this time influencing Gregory to turn to alcohol as a form of escapism relating to his death anxiety. With the collector now as his god, he continues to explain, “If he tells me to hurt myself / Damn it, I’ll give it hell / Who am I to disobеy?” This track is heavy, theatrical, and creates an unsettling atmosphere; put that all together and you have a song that feels like a horror movie. This fervent track features a fiery guitar solo at the end that is likely to spawn the most intense mosh pits at their shows.

Following “Hollow” comes “Curly Q”, an affectionate and melodic track that is in the running for one of my favorite songs of all time. Gregory wrote this one as a warning to his nephew about the world he is being brought into. Between anxiety about the changing climate and his personal experiences with mental health, Gregory fears for his nephew’s future and wants him to understand that he can find ways to get by in the midst of all the ugly he will inevitably endure. The weight of the emotions behind this track are translated perfectly by the music, as it is instrumentally gentle and lyrically personal. “Curly Q” finishes with a sentimental guitar solo that contrasts the intensity of that from the previous track. This trend of epic end-of-song guitar solos continues for the next three tracks and makes for some of the best moments of this 42 minute LP, especially in “Keep Up That Talk”. The true highlight of Prince Daddy & The Hyena is the slow burn 9 minute track “Black Mold”. Written about a time when Gregory’s depression nearly cost him his life, this track utilizes the collector as a way to confront his darkest thoughts. It is a heartbreaking yet genius piece of writing that is perfectly in line with everything that this record is about. It opens with a haunting voicemail from an old friend of Gregory’s played over an eerie drawn out synth and a guitar riff reminiscent of Radiohead’s “Creep”. The vocal performance is what really steals the show here. Each line is delivered in a way that perfectly conveys the emotions behind the words, making for a hard-hitting final product. Despite this feeling like a conclusion to the album, there is still one more track to discuss. After the emotionally dense “Black Mold”, “Baby Blue” flips the switch and leaves the listener with the sentiment that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It feels like a glimpse into the future where all the darkness explored in this record has been worked through and life feels normal again. For being the final track in an album that focuses on death and depression, “Baby Blue” fits surprisingly well, and implores the listener to ponder the message that Prince Daddy & The Hyena is trying to send. 

Overall, Prince Daddy & The Hyena is a phenomenal album. Prince Daddy successfully explored a myriad of ways that Gregory’s thanatophobia impacted his life, making for a coherent concept album. They also took every opportunity to experiment with their sound throughout the 13 tracks, and nailed it each time. This caused the album to be so diverse that the next step in their evolution is impossible to predict. Thankfully, this is not a threat to Prince Daddy & The Hyena’s future as this album serves as proof that they thrive on unpredictability.

Favorite Tracks: “Black Mold”, “Curly Q”, “Shoelaces”, “Keep Up That Talk”, “Hollow, As You Figured”, “El Dorado”

Rating: 9/10

For more Prince Daddy and the Hyena, visit the links below:


Introducing: The Peach Tree Rascals

by Deven Sukhdeo

PTR performing at Boston Calling 2022, photo by Deven Sukhdeo

The Peach Tree Rascals (PTR) are a music collective from California best known for their wholesome sound and viral song “Mariposa”. I recently had the chance to interview the very lovable group at Boston Calling 2022, a music festival that they performed at this summer. 

The group considers themselves a family and each of the members have a fun and dynamic personality. Despite all of the fun they have, they also are very hardworking and talented. 

Here is a brief introduction to each of the members-

Tarrek is a singer and songwriter for the group. He claims that, “It don’t matter the time or place. If you tell me to shake it, I will shake it.” He later says that, “I would survive the titanic…I’m built different.”

Jorge describes himself as, “The creative director… I have asthma, and I am allergic to peaches (ironically).”

Joseph is a singer songwriter with a ketchup phobia. Other members of PTR mention, “We thought he was lying at first.”

Dom plays piano and helps to produce PTR’s music. He introduced himself by saying, “I like to dance.” The others mention that, “We don’t let Dom decide where we eat. He has the taste buds of a 4-year old.”

Jasper plays guitar during live shows and also helps with producing and songwriting. He ensures that, “At any moment I can strip down.” 

Isac introduces himself as, “A rapper, philosopher, and philanthropist. I’m working on my phd in bio-genetics…I’ve worked almost everyone here on the basketball court.”

—-

We had a wild conversation about everything from MythBusters to cooking adobo chicken. But, despite all the goofiness, there were also a lot of moments where the boys were candid about their background and success.

They are a very diverse group – Joseph is Filipino and Tarrek is Palistinian. Jorge, Issac, Jasper, and Dom are all Mexican. We talked about how that diversity manifested itself in positive ways for the group.

Issac said, “Most of us have immigrant parents. We take their work ethic and we bring that into the studio. Growing up around that, it’s easy for us to work hard and put our heads down until success comes.”

They also mentioned that the success has been more than just superficial for them.

“There are perks that come with the success; we were able to help our families.”

The Peach Tree Rascals are at a pivotal point in their career, where they are gaining lots of positive attention from critics and fans alike. This is where celebrities often begin to focus on fame and status and lose touch with who they are. But despite having over three hundred million monthly Spotify listeners, they love each and every fan, and their positivity and personality shines through all of their work.

You can listen to their new single, LET U GO here.


Catching Up With Lizzy McAlpine

By Emily Teubner

When I was little, I used to get really starstruck.  I would freak out at the sight of an artist I liked on stage, and basically have a meltdown if a singer liked my tweet, or even mentioned my city in their latest post.  This “wow” factor has dwindled as I’ve grown older, and I’ve experienced more shows, and more interactions.  However, this “starstruck” feeling picked right back up when I was given the opportunity to set up an interview with Lizzy McAlpine, one of my favorite artists to date.  

five seconds flat is the newly released album by Lizzy; a 14 song masterpiece on heartbreak, experimenting with new sounds for Lizzy, and collaboration with artists like Finneas, Jacob Collier, and more.

The day of the interview, I got ready while listening to the album, set up my laptop, lit a candle to calm some nerves, and entered the Zoom room ready to chat with the amazing singer-songwriter that is Lizzy.  The rest is history…

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WRSU Sports celebrates 40th anniversary of 1982 Rutgers women’s basketball AIAW National Championship with special broadcast

The Rutgers Lady Knights won the AIAW National Championship 83-77 over Texas at The Palestra in Philadelphia in 1982.

On Monday, March 28, WRSU Sports welcomed back former Lady Knights, their coach, and the WRSU members who covered the team for a special four-hour broadcast from our College Avenue Studios. The was held 40 years to the day that the Rutgers women’s basketball team – led by head coach Theresa Grentz – beat Texas to win the 1982 AIAW National Championship.

First up was WRSU’s “From the Archives” documentary – hosted by recent alum Dominick Savino and aired initially in 2017 – which looked back at the game through the eyes of the players, while airing the original WRSU broadcast in its entirety.

Following that, alums Geoff Sadow and Jon Newman hosted a special “Alumni Knightline.” fellow alum Jim Berman – who called the 1982 AIAW title game – as well as coach Theresa Grentz, and star players Mary and Patty Coyle.

Sadow and Newman’s interest in the original project spurred a video documentary, “Forgotten Champions,” which is set to make its premiere this fall. You can find out more by clicking here.

Click below to listen to the special “Alumni Knightline” from March 28, 2022, marking the 40th anniversary of the Rutgers Lady Knights’ AIAW National Championship:


Shehatesjacob impresses with genre-bending album “artificial flowers”

By Brad Kramer

Shehatesjacob is an artist who has consistently impressed me ever since I found his music at the beginning of last year. His versatility is unlike any other underground artist I’ve heard. The New Zealand artist has tackled every style from emo-rap to hyperpop to guitar ballads—even his own spin on drill music—his approach to music isn’t bound by genre at all.I can always count on Jacob to deliver something catchy and emotive, and his new album artificial flowers doesn’t disappoint. 

The title track sees him stepping even further out of his comfort zone, experimenting with an angsty indie rock sound and absolutely killing it. The theme of the record starts to take shape here too. He repeats on the hook, “Her love is artificial flowers, she always knows how to get into my head.” All throughout the record he’s fed up with the shallow connections he seems to make with people, and that’s what the idea of artificial flowers is meant to symbolize. 

But he doesn’t spend the whole record sulking over failed relationships like you may expect. Songs like “freaky” and “moshpit” are some of the most energetic tracks I’ve ever heard from him. He forgoes his melodic delivery on “freaky” in exchange for some husky-voiced raps over retro-style brass that immediately catches your ear. Then he expands even further on “moshpit,” rapping over steady drums and a Japanese city-pop sample—there’s almost no sound that Jacob won’t try. I always knew he had a strong ear for melodic songs, but these two songs prove he’s got some untapped potential as a rapper too. 

I also have to mention “stuck at home,” Jacob’s collaboration with fellow underground artist Lilbubblegxm. It was the album’s lone single: a slick hyperpop song inspired by life during New Zealand’s recent COVID-19 outbreak this past August. The flows are downtrodden and the lyrics are lonely, but the beat is full of lively, digital sounds that make for a perfect dichotomy. It’s the perfect song to soundtrack the virtual existence we’ve all been subject to ever since we went into lockdown. 

Listening to this album made it hard for me to believe that Jacob is just starting out as an artist. This is only his 3rd project, but it’s clear he’s got something special. All of these songs are catchy, and he holds his own with every new sound he tries. Be sure to check out artificial flowers by Shehatesjacob below.

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Firefly Festival Survival Guide: A Review

By Grace Dermenjian

With all of this year’s festival announcements coming out, I can’t help but reminisce on my own festival experiences.

Back in September, 2021, I traveled down to Dover, Delaware’s Firefly Music Festival on behalf of WRSU. Headliners like Billie Eilish, The Killers, Tame Impala, and Lizzo brought fans from near and far for a great concert. Unexpected events such as Thursday’s storm delays, getting to meet some incredible artists in the press tent, and being given the opportunity to photograph sets from the pit made Firefly a hectic yet joyful experience. Without proper preparation, Festivals can be a nightmare for attendees – below is my survival guide, as well as why I think you should head to Dover yourself next year. Here is a list of 6 rules to follow when going to Firefly:

1.       EAT

Ensuring you are receiving all your nutrients is essential to make it all 4 days. Firefly has everything from fried chicken to authentic burritos that were out of this world. However, Island Noodles, a festival favorite, stole the show with their chicken and vegetable noodles that quickly became a staple for the WRSU crew. It was the perfect combination of protein, carbs, and delicious veggies such as brussels sprouts (my personal favorite) and carrots. When I come back to any east coast festival in the future, I will be looking forward to this savory dish!

Island Noodles at Firefly Festival

2.       MAKE NEW FRIENDS

Going into the festival, I was very nervous to see how the environment would be as I did not know what to expect post-pandemic. Turns out that nothing had changed, except for masks and much more hand sanitizer. The media tent was bustling, and definitely had us all grinding on our work. Ourselves and many others spent our days rushing to sets, conducting interviews, downloading photos and simply trying to get as much coverage completed as possible,.. The WRSU crew made some great friends that quickly took us under their wing, showing us the dos and don’ts of how to survive a festival from a media standpoint. Jones, Jackie, and Butch all made the weekend unforgettable and we cannot wait to see them again in the future.  

Butch and the Firefly Team

3.       SMALLER STAGES ARE A MUST

Smaller artists turned the heads of many and played their hearts out. Artists like Peach Pit, Remi Wolf, and The Happy Fits brought fans, old and new, earlier in the festival days. The Happy Fits, a local New Brunswick band, shook the audience with their charismatic and lighthearted attitude and new spin on Indie Rock with hits like “Too Late” and “Mary” while also performing one of two new songs, “Another Try.” Peach Pit was hands down one of my favorite sets. They brought the energy fans have been anticipating for the past 18 months through Neil Smith (vocals and guitar) crowd surfing and performing a new song – with an upcoming country twist – from their upcoming album.. Lastly, Remi Wolf brought the “stage” down with first performances of hits like “Photo ID”.  Dominic Fike surprised Remi fans with a special appearance during her set, making his way through excited fans singing along.

Peach Pit at Firefly Festival

4.   ENJOY YOUR FAVORITE BANDS

a.       Seeing favorite artists after the 18-month concert drought was truly a needed boost. Headliners like Glass Animals, girl in red, and Sofi Tukker encapsulated audiences with their amazing set designs and glowing personalities. My favorite set of the festival easily became a tie between Sofi Tukker and Cage the Elephant. Cage literally and metaphorically dazzled festival goers with Matt Shultz’s (vocals) disco ball-inspired bodysuit and hits such as“Come a Little Closer”, “Trouble”, and “Mess Around.” I have been a huge follower of Cage the Elephant since childhood so to see how they energetically interacted with the crowd, was one for the books. Sofi Tukker played during sunset at the Main Stage on Sunday, bringing Brazilian inspired beats to the party. We saw them perform shortly after I interviewed them, and they did not disappoint with their first festival performance since the start of the pandemic. During the festival, my heart skipped a beat as Tucker briefly looked down and recognized me post-interview.

Sofi Tukker at Firefly Festival

5.       PREPARE FOR WEATHER

Thursday brought an interesting turn of events for the WRSU crew with a storm hitting Dover Thursday afternoon. This caused a 4 hour delay the fest and much confusion on where we could actually enter. Rest assured, we made friends with some festival staff and were able to check out the grounds before the crowds flocked the fields. We ended up meeting friends of artists, striking up conversation quickly, making both more friends and unforgettable memories.

Phoebe Bridgers at Firefly Festival

6.       THE WAIT IS WELL WORTH IT

 The pandemic has caused a lot of chaos, confusion, and uncertainty for many, but coming back to a festival like Firefly made the rainbow at the end of the storm worth the wait. All the artists that performed brought the energy and vibe that audiences were expecting and more. Making new friends, enjoying new eats, and overall having an experience that exceeded expectations will definitely bring me back to Firefly in the future. I can’t wait until that day comes!

Remi Wolf & Dominic Fike at Firefly Festival
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TikTok’s Visible Impact On Contemporary Music

By Ben Wego

If you haven’t heard of or downloaded TikTok on your phone then you’re probably living under a rock. TikTok has become a new way to discover pop music and is considered the most successful guerilla radio. People with a particular music taste are generally wary of so-called “TikTok” songs. However, I think it’s time to kill that stigma. Why is it so embarrassing to admit that you found a song from TikTok? I have found songs and artists that were generally not even that popular on TikTok. It is providing a resurgence for indie musicians, soundcloud rappers, and acoustic artists. 

Some songs that are providing fresh sound to Top 40 are “Meet Me at Our Spot” by The Anxiety. I had heard of The Anxiety and this song prior to it’s notoriety on TikTok but it certainly deserves the attention it has received. This song is a banger. Willow Smith has finally been able to prove her own sound through indie/punk rock music. Take the “who got you smiling like that” challenge for example. The song that plays in that challenge is called “Loverboy” by A-Wall. This artist was basically a nobody before this song blew up and it is fantastic. Its sound is reminiscent of an 80’s song with lyrics that fit “Kill the lights, Oh, Baby, Close your eyes/The way you’re looking at me/You’ve got me mesmerized.” Feels like it belongs in a Molly Ringwald 80s cult classic. 

Another song that blew up on TikTok with a slasher underground rock sound was none other than “Freaks” by Surf Curse. This song came out 5 years prior to it’s popular growth on TikTok and prompted a re-release in 2021. TikTok is creating value for indie artists/bands and expanding users’ taste. This is a beautiful thing. While it does seem very lucky and algorithm based, it has provided opportunities for artists like Pinkpantheress, who essentially makes DIY based music that fits an aesthetic (sort of like Clairo’s ‘Pretty Girl’ which blew up via YouTube). It is mind boggling to see the amount of creativity and uniqueness that some artists are receiving recognition for on TikTok.

However, there are artists like Lael,whom many suspect is an industry plant, who tries to use indie artists’ “came from nothing” aesthetic to implore fans to listen to her music. She claims she has no success when in reality her YouTube channel has around 1 million subscribers. Maybe this is not overnight success but it is success. It’s interesting to see the contrast of indie artists who are using every technique they can to put their music and name out there whereas someone like Dixie D’amelio is spoon fed with opportunities. Dixie is not a naturally talented artist but she has the cards laid out for her to be. I personally think she should try different sounds instead of pop (maybe indie rock or alternative or even R&B). She has all this overnight success and is trying to put it into being an artist with relatively no experience. She is pretty courageous for this because she has to flop in front of millions of people instead of most artists who are just starting out with not such great music that probably have fan bases of 50 people or less.

TikTok has also opened a new world of music journalism from MostleyMusic, Dev Lemons (SongPsych), WillTalksMusic, Ari Elkins, and Axel Tanner. These people have been able to make a career out of sharing new music with people, describing the depth of specific song lyrics, the story behind an artist’s music, etc. Many indie artists rely on music journalists for exposure for their own music, most of which comes from playlists and TikToks. 

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The Kid LAROI Stumbles A Bit on “Over You”

By Brad Kramer

The Kid LAROI showed a great deal of potential with his debut mixtape, F*** LOVE. Juvenile name and amateur singing aside, this Australian Juice WRLD protigé showcased a great ear for melody and some passionate performances. He quickly outdid himself with a deluxe edition called “SAVAGE,”a re-release with seven new tracks of supremely catchy blends of rap, pop and acoustic ballads. But unfortunately, the well has really dried up for LAROI with this third installment in the F*** LOVE series, “Over You.” 

If LAROI has improved on anything this go round, it’s his singing and production. Looking back on his first two installments of the F*** LOVE series, there were some vocals LAROI attempted that sounded strained. But LAROI doesn’t sound like he’s straining to hit his notes anymore. He’s ascended to pop-star status and the quality of his singing rose with him.

These are also some of the poppiest beats LAROI has ever touched. From sobering piano balladry on the title track to driving dance-pop on “Stay” to warm RnB samples on “Still Chose You,” LAROI is pushing himself outside of his comfort zone. There’s not a single guitar-based emo-rap beat on this entire project, which is refreshing considering how comfortable he got with that sound on “SAVAGE.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see such a diverse feature list as well. LAROI having guest spots with Machine Gun Kelly, Marshmello and Miley Cyrus in the past made me think he was going to go full pop and forgo his talents as a rapper. But pop stars like Justin Bieber stand side-by-side on this project with Chicago rap veterans like G Herbo and Lil Durk. I didn’t expect to see LAROI palling around with them, but the track they wind up on is great, and one of the most vulnerable moments on the album. Polo G and Stunna Gambino also shined on “Not Sober.” The two reminisce to when they were broke and struggling which fits right in with LAROI’s chorus about drinking just to get away from it all. 

So LAROI stepped out of the emo-rap box he was dangerously close to being trapped in—that’s great, but there’s just one problem. The quality of LAROI’s writing has dropped a great deal. His lyrics aren’t the issue, he always wrote from that “immature teenage boy just trying to find his way” perspective ever since he debuted. It was his melodies that hooked me in, but sadly there’s nothing all that catchy on “Over You.”

Take the title track for example. The passion in this song is electrifying—he wails out during the chorus about how hurt he feels by someone and how he’s finally pushing them away. But during the verses, he sings over this slow moving piano ballad with an awkwardly fast flow. It feels like he’s still rapping over a driving guitar beat from the “SAVAGE” days. 

This is a problem for almost all of the album. Too often LAROI finds himself over a new instrumental palette, but approaches these beats in the same ways he did on his last two projects. It makes these songs sound clunky, and it’s why this album has barely any catchy elements or replay value for me. “Stay,” “Not Sober,” and “Same Energy” are the only songs where LAROI sounds focused, and they’re the only songs I’d ever think of going back to.

Hopefully the attempts at new styles, more controlled singing, and even greater passion, are a forecast of nothing but good things for LAROI’s future. But, as of right now, it’s clear he’s got some work to do before he perfects a more polished, pop-centric sound. LAROI is headed in the right direction and “Over You” is just a small glimpse of what might be a path to a great career.

Favorite Tracks: “Stay,” “Not Sober”

Rating: 4/10

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Japanese Breakfast @ Union Transfer

Union Transfer x 8/7/21

Photos by Joe Morales for WRSU-FM

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Pop Smoke’s Team Delivers a Thrown-Together Posthumous Album with Faith

By Brad Kramer

Reviewing a posthumous album is never an easy task. With the release of Pop Smoke’s 2nd posthumous album Faith, objectively looking at this piece of work, much different from his original musical plan, becomes a lot harder to do. His leftover material was mismanaged and it makes for an album that’s well crafted, but not well curated. A handful of highlights are drowned out by baffling production choices and mediocre cuts where Pop barely appears, which makes this album so much more disappointing knowing what could’ve been. 

Faith does, at the very least, hit the ground running. A quick spoken word piece by Pop’s mom transitions well into “More Time,” a sorrowful, piano-backed ballad. Pop starts the song with an effortless croon calling for his partners to be freed from jail, then explodes into one of his trademark verses with all the threatening lyrics, booming vocals and catchy flows he was known for. While the beat was changed from what Pop originally rapped over, this new production is actually something I can commend Faith on. Many tracks take Pop into a bunch of new directions which sound amazing and surprisingly natural, most of the time. 

While Pop Smoke’s team have drastically changed the production from what he wanted, most of these new beats still hit just as hard as anything else Pop would’ve used. “Tell The Vision” combines driving brass with fast drums and children’s choir interludes—this in addition to Pop’s lyrics about finally succeeding make this one of the most anthemic songs on the project. “Manslaughter,” just from the beat alone, is an experience. Steady drums and grand layers of heavenly pitched-up vocals make this song just as much of a banger as it is a tear-jerker. Pop Smoke’s hook and verse are fine and Rick Ross fits in perfectly, but The-Dream’s performance blew me away. The emotion with which he delivers his lyrics truly elevates the song. He sings with such passion in the outro of the song, openly ranting with his thoughts on life after Pop’s death; it’s magnificent.

“Bout A Million ” pairs a stone cold, guitar-backed drill beat with equally heartless verses from Pop and 21 Savage. Both of their deliveries are menacing in the exact opposite way—Pop stomping through your speakers with his rumbling voice while 21 Savage’s unbothered muttering makes his wicked lyrics only more spine-tingling—which makes 21 the perfect feature. 

There’s a couple other highlights like “Brush Em” (a throwback from 2018), “Woo Baby,” a buttery-smooth R&B jam with Chris Brown, “What’s Crackin” with Takeoff from Migos (which is essentially a Migos song done by Pop Smoke which goes over well) and a groovy disco track with Dua Lipa called “Demeanor.”

But outside of these songs, the rest of Faith is filled with forgettable tracks. Most of them have questionable guest features simply because Pop was never able to finish the tracks.  The album contains some mind-boggling production choices that would make anyone seriously question who was in charge of curating this album. The biggest offender is “Top Shotta,” a long-anticipated fan favorite turned disappointment. People were hyped to hear this song after a snippet of Pop snapping over a threatening beat came out back in January of this year. Fast forward to release day and this song instead has one of the dinkiest tropical island beats I’ve ever heard and 3 guests which bog this song down. “Woo Baby Interlude” is a 29-second acapella and a waste of a hook that was supposed to go to Pop’s friend Fivio Foreign for his song “Tiger.” Fans were clamoring for that song, so why they removed Pop’s hook to use as an interlude is something I’ll never understand.

My biggest issue with this album is that aside from those two songs, most of it is perfectly fine. It’s not Pop’s best material but I’m not going to fault him for that—he’s dead, he can’t fix it. The new beats are mostly great and none of the features gave a bad performance. But what this album needed was better curation—choosing features Pop knew and worked with and changing the album from 20 tracks to maybe 14 at most would’ve been a great place to start. If this were to have happened, Faith could’ve actually achieved the potential it had. But Pop’s camp took the easy way out, threw the whole cutting room floor on the album, and added features to fill in the empty spaces he no longer could, sometimes with no regard to what he originally wanted. A good album shouldn’t leave me with so many questions: why were Pop’s friends kicked off of “Manslaughter,” “Tell The Vision,” and “Top Shotta”; why was the terrible beat on “Top Shotta” approved; why is Dua Lipa the feature on “Demeanor” when Pop originally asked for Bruno Mars? Little things like this add up and make it clear that the priority here was releasing an album that is just passable, not one that does Pop Smoke justice. It would’ve been entirely possible to make a great 2nd posthumous album with what Pop left over. Not enough care was taken to do that though, and Faith suffers immensely as a result. 

Favorite Tracks: “Manslaughter,” “Brush Em’,” “Bout A Million,” “Spoiled,” “More Time”

Rating: 6/10

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