Review: Jace – The Jace Tape


Mike Will Made-It’s colossal 2014 mixtape “Ransom” featured a healthy spectrum of rappers from Atlanta, Georgia, the then and current center of the musical universe: it had ATL elder statesmen 2 Chainz, Future, and Gucci Mane, as well as the still up-and-coming Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, and the sadly since-deceased Bankroll Fresh – and that’s about one-third of the whole all-star lineup. One of the standout tracks on “Ransom” was track two, “Fuck U Expect,” by a relative newcomer called Jace. Floating over a pounding, synth-laden Mike Will track, Jace put out an amorphous, sort of mind-bending flow that succinctly pocked the beat’s peaks and valleys. It was a promising, if brief showcase for an artist that seemed to be on the verge of something big.  

Fast-forward to 2016, in its nascency already a year of massive, quality rap output, and we have Jace’s “The Jace Tape” vying – convincingly – for a space in that crowd. At 14 tracks, “The Jace Tape” is a work that finds Jace airing out bars over a diverse palette of production from the quickly-ascending likes of Ducko McFli, FKi, and Resource, to list a few. The overall sound of the mixtape straddles a familiar ATL trap wave as well as a boom-bap East coast nostalgia (industry legend Don Cannon pops up) that’s actually refreshing in a modern context.

The highlight of the tape, however, is of course Jace. The narcotics ballad “Designer Drugs” is a particularly impressive display of wordplay outlining an itinerary of substance abuse: “Bout that time / Sniff a xan, do a line / Roll up, that’s fine / Jack Dan, that’s mine / Do a bump, then grind / Said excuse me for being so Genuwine.” It’s that kind of rapid-fire, steamrolling delivery decorating Jace’s flow that makes him uniquely one to watch. On “Jesse Owens,” over an absurd beat by Syk Sense, Jace goes in again: “In my oldest ozzy bumping golden oldies / With a golden Rollie, kinda showy showy / But it’s dancing on me like it’s working fowlies / I meant to say Follies, but I’m fucking rolling.” The whole second verse of that track is worthy of transcription and it comes off utterly effortless.

A standout track on “The Jace Tape” is “J.A.N.,” a candid moment where Jace addresses America’s racial climate with a blunt earnestness: “Face it racist, you probably got a son like me / Or your daughters got one and he’s just like me / Probably pissed at how similar we just might be / Little Johnny probably a nigga, just like me.” It’s a song that poignantly ruminates on the shittiness of being boxed in and classified in this country, boasting a bleak, but real hook: “It doesn’t make a difference / At the end of day they’ll kill you, pull the trigger / It doesn’t make a difference / I am just another nigga / Go figure.”

As a debut solo effort, “The Jace Tape” is a well-rounded work that illustrates Jace’s future promise and should put him on a larger collective radar. It’s the type of mixtape that makes you excited for an eventual album – even if that’s an increasingly vague distinction – and there’s something thrilling about being at the ground floor of an artist’s career and looking up at the temporarily vacant floors above, imagining the inevitable successes to come. If “The Jace Tape” is that ground floor, it heralds some exciting and dope shit.  


March Madness


Future’s current run since the release of Monster in October of 2014 has been quite the marathon to behold. Following the success of Monster, his ensuing releases Beast Mode and 56 Nights –  mixtapes with almost zero features that were more complete and engrossing than most albums released in that time frame – served as landmarks that the rest of the rap world could use on their trail of catching the fuck up to Hendrix. Those three mixtapes alone, before the massive releases of DS2 and What a Time to Be Alive – an album that Future occasionally let Drake rap on – represent three acts of a largely one-man show telegraphing Future’s eventual position as the biggest rapper on earth.

While each of Future’s mixtapes in that era truly had gems, it was “March Madness” off of 56 Nights that became one of the paramount tracks in Future’s catalog, as well one of of the biggest singles of the year. The Tarantino-produced track is a lumbering force: a jarring baseline listing back-and-forth under what sounds like a codeine-soaked R2D2 – it’s a fitting bed for Future’s marching, savage warble.

Future’s writing on “March Madness” has an assured, authoritative voice. It’s clear he knows the direction he needs to go after some questionable past career movies and right off the jump, this is not Pop Star Future: “Dress it up and make it real for me / Whatever the fuck that means.” Over the course of the track, Future offers layered proclamations that while boastful, do convey an underlying recognition of a shitty reality: “I’m the one that’s living lavish / Like I’m playing for the Mavericks / I didn’t want to fuck the bitch / The molly made me fuck her even though she average.”

It’s that type of conflict and complexity that has made Future such an enigmatic star – there is a very real, relatable sadness to his music even though he can seem so, at times, (worth mentioning: self-described) alien. Future channeling that humanity also makes “March Madness” a richly layered, dope fucking song – he succinctly summarizes America in 2015: “We ballin’ like the March Madness / Cops shootin’ niggas, tragic” and succinctly summarizes Future in 2015 and beyond: “Fuck a cougar like she Halle Berry / Future Hendrix, dirty Sprite, legendary.”

“March Madness” – and Future’s current run in general – reminds me of an early, made-for-TV Spielberg film called DUEL (1971). It’s the story of a traveling salesman driving on a lonely patch of interstate who is stalked by a hulking 18-wheeler operated by some unseen, malevolent force. Try as the salesman may, he cannot shake the semi truck and it continues to overtake him and generally make his life an anxious hell. Well, to make a convoluted (and pretty contrived) comparison: Future is that truck and the travelling salesman is the endless stream of fuckshit coming out in an increasingly disposable era of music. Let’s pray he never (spoiler alert) goes off a cliff.    

Review: Young Dolph – King of Memphis

On his debut full-length, King of Memphis, it only takes a matter of seconds for Young Dolph to pledge allegiance to the Trap God: “I can’t wait ‘till my boy get home / free my nigga Gucci.” As the specter of the currently incarcerated Gucci Mane looms large over the southeast region – where rappers and producers he birthed are increasingly rising to international stardom – it’s fitting that Dolph, perhaps one of his more pronounced spiritual heirs, should acknowledge his influence right off the jump.

Gucci Mane’s impact is everywhere on the Memphis native’s debut. The production roster is heavily tilted toward familiar Atlanta staples (Mike Will Made-It and Zaytoven are two direct Guwop disciples) and Dolph’s changing speeds of cadence – that of a slow-mo, more palatable incarnation of Silkk the Shocker – are very reminiscent of Gucci Mane’s flow on “Don’t Deserve It,” only extrapolated over an entire album.

An artist transparently wearing their influences is not exactly a new concept (it’s also worth noting that Dolph has Gucci’s valuable co-sign) and while Gucci’s impression can drift toward distraction at times, King of Memphis is still a work from an artist carving out his own space – Young Dolph is fully capable of being on his own shit.

On “Fuck It,” a solid banger produced by DJ Squeeky that finds Dolph in a moment of calm ambivalence, he shows off a cleverness that’s certainly aided his rise: “I made enough cake in the trap to send my kids to Stanford / Baby Dolph already hustling and he still in pampers.” And later, on the track “Get Paid,” he offers up a Fight Club-ian mantra that sounds much cooler than anything penned by Palahniuk: “Rule number 1: get the money / Rule number 2: don’t forget to get the money.”

“Let Me See It” (produced by Mike Will Made-It) is another bright spot that shows off Dolph’s sense of humor: “I gave the mailman a high five and told him ‘have a great day!’” and tracks like “Royalty” and “USA” display an artist with conceptual acumen who just straight-up rides a beat really fucking well. Any arguments of derivative elements aside, Dolph definitely has something that’s worth our attention.

There’s a really tired “What if?” in hip-hop that goes something like, “What if (insert dead rapper) were still around? Would so-and-so be nearly as successful?” This fall, Gucci Mane gets out of prison, and though he’s put out quite a bit of work during his stay, we may actually see this hypothetical play out without any necromancy. That’s not to say Gucci is going to come out and start bodying everybody he’s spawned (then again, he might), but it’s going to be interesting to see an almost mythological character walk amongst his descendents. In the meantime, Young Dolph, ascending to his own space, is another on an ever-growing roster that carries on the legacy of the benevolent Trap God.  

Blog Post: The Life of Pablo


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  1. In the days leading up to the release of The Life of Pablo – which were an agonizing bout of stops and starts for any proud Kanye stan – I was reading The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final novel. It was released posthumously and unfinished, patched together by his friend Edmund Wilson, a critic and writer. It’s a quick read and it passed the time well enough between checking my phone every five minutes to see if the album had dropped. When The Life of Pablo finally released (and Tidal finally broke my will) and I consumed it in one sitting, I noted a (more, but I’ll spare you) parallel to Fitzgerald’s novel: this is a messy, unfinished work that, in its shambolic state, only highlights the brilliance of a once-in-a-generation artist.
  2. But whereas Fitzgerald is dead and The Last Tycoon will remain unfinished, The Life of Pablo is a uniquely living and breathing work. Kanye West had been tweaking the album seemingly right up until its release (note the incredibly current Blac Chyna/Rob Kardashian reference in “Highlights”) and, in a surreal twist, beyond, with his Twitter proclamation that he would re-work “Wolves.” Kanye has forged many a trend and perhaps 2016’s shutter shades (shudder if you owned them – yikes) will be continuing to work on your album even after its release.
  3. Props if you’ve made it past my nauseating comparisons to a dead, white author – here’s what I think about The Life of Pablo: it’s really fucking good. Every Kanye album is my favorite Kanye album and TLOP is no exception.
  4. “Ultralight Beam” is a gospel song. It’s an interesting intro track in that it barely features Kanye amidst an imposing lineup of The-Dream, Kelly Price, Chance the Rapper and Kirk Franklin. (Full-disclosure: I have never liked anything by Chance the Rapper, but he absolutely bodies this track to the point where my opinion might be changing.)
  5. I first heard “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” during the Yeezy Season 3 Tidal stream and when I heard Metro Boomin’s drop I nearly ran through a brick wall. I’ve probably listened to this track over thirty times now and the first minute or so are up there with my favorite things Kanye has ever created. When the beat drops and Yeezy starts talking about bleached assholes there’s an affecting sonic euphoria that’s rare to find.
  6. While the first four songs of the album seem to harken back to ‘Ye’s more soulful era, production-wise, “Feedback” recalls that Yeezus-era shit that sounds like a sonic distillation of visuals from Richard Stanley’s HARDWARE (1990) and it’s absolutely brilliant, of course.
  7. To levy a criticism for the sake of some semblance of objectivity (LOL), Young Thug is not featured enough on “Highlights.” Thugger floats over the first half of the track like an auto-tuned, ethereal wraith and I’d like to hear more. (Yeezy says he has forty songs with Young Thug, FYI; So blessed.) But this song is great and hearing The-Dream repeat “I need every bad bitch up in Equinox” makes me OK with knowing that many insufferable people will be shouting that line well through August.
  8. Desiigner sounds a lot like Future.
  9. Kanye made an acapella track that perfectly encapsulates the I-prefer-the-old-shit types who didn’t understand anything released after Graduation, while also touching on the fact that they all still pay attention. All in forty-four seconds. 
  10. “Waves” delayed the release of TLOP by a couple of days because Chance the Rapper fought for it to be on the album (he wrote and arranged the song). That proved a noble fight because this is one of Kanye’s best songs in years. “Waves” succinctly displays one of the more prevalent themes throughout TLOP: success without love or family is not really success. The boasting heard at the beginning of the track: “Walk up in this bitch like / I’m the one your bitch like” seems hollow after the resigned lamentation that comes later: “Even when somebody go away / The feelings don’t really go away / That’s just the wave.”
  11.                                               You can see through the veil,

          And forget all your cares,

           Throw them,

                    Throw them away         

           Ooh life’s a feeling yeah

           Ooh the body’s a feeling yeah

           Emotions come and go

           Even strike you a blow

           But life, life’s a feeling yeah

           Ooh life’s a feeling yeah

           -Section 25. “Hit.”

  1. The above are lyrics heard in a sample on the track “FML.” This is one of the darker offerings on TLOP in which we find Kanye recognizing that he is a man with something to  lose (a wife, specifically) and, in turn, is seeking morality and strength in the face of temptation. The lyrics by Section 25 (a pretty obscure English post-punk band that should pique the attention of the most ardent Factory Records completists), are sampled in a haunting, dislocated drone and offer a nihilist polar that hangs over a man desperately pleading for love. It’s a well-executed and subtle juxtaposition that serves to the inner conflict heard throughout the album.
  2. About a year ago, Kanye performed a new song called “Wolves” on SNL and the whole fandom lost their shit and began immediately pining for a CDQ version. Months wore on and there was legitimate concern that this track would end up in the annals of cryptozoological myth-like releases with Dr. Dre’s Detox and that Zach De La Rocha solo record, so when it popped up on the tracklist for The Life of Pablo there was a collective sigh of relief. The version that ended up on the album, however, was absent Vic Mensa and Sia, both of whom featured on the original version, and the new incarnation is just…different. Frank Ocean (speaking of cryptozoological myth-like releases) does appear on the album version and there’s a new Kanye verse, both of which are decent consolations, but when the original CDQ version leaked this past week it was a fortuitous stroke of divinty – praise Yeezus.
  3. If the Wave God Max B speaks on a record it’s technically a classic based off that alone.  
  4. Drake co-wrote “30 Hours” and it’s really apparent in the second verse: “Expedition was Eddie Bauer edition / I’m drivin’ with no winter tires in December / Skrrt skrrt skrrt like a private school for women” – those are 100 percent Drake bars.
  5. When you put a diss track about Nike on your album you are fully logged on to www dot not playin dot com. This song initially came out in December and seemed to have one-off, will-rot-on-soundcloud-in-perpetuity written all over it. I mean it wasn’t bad – it was produced by Metro Boomin so it technically can’t be – but it was…a diss track about Nike. Somehow, though, Charlie Heat remixed the track and made the beat even better (???). While this may have seemed out of place at first blush, it’s three-plus minutes of Puffy-spitting-Cristal bars and really, it makes sense. 
  6. I, like most, assumed it was a wrap for Post Malone when that vine of him saying the n-word hit the internet, but here he is on “Fade.”
  7. The Life of Pablo is a messy masterpiece that’s – remarkably – still evolving in an era of never-before-seen creative transparency from the artist. In a time where we’re all broadcasting every banal life occurrence to the world (omg Starbuck’s misspelled my name), Yeezy tweeting through his album release seems to wrangle the ol’ zeitgeist pretty well, while also making our own moves seem pretty inconsequential. Bravo, Kanye.   

Jerry Kill: Some Thoughts and Memories

(Author’s Note: This post originally appeared at The Daily Gopher.)

On December 5th, 2010, I was having dinner with some visiting relatives, people I generally see once or twice a year to exchange mostly pleasant, if vague life updates and discus goings-on with other, more distant family members. It was the type of assembly that requires about two hours of my present and attentive self and yet, I found myself buried in a relatively new—though now way too familiar—brick of technology in my palm. It was worth being rude and distracted and probably ridiculed because Twitter was gradually disseminating news I had been anticipating for weeks: the University of Minnesota football program had hired a new coach.

My familiarity with Jerry Kill was scant when he was formally announced the next day. As being a diehard Gopher fan is at times an exercise in pure delusion, I fell into the camp of thinking we could land some big-name, square-jawed upstart (although this was based on approximately nothing) and was not exactly brimming with excitement. But as I peeled back the thinly neurotic layers of disappointment and looked at the win columns and box scores of our newly minted leader from Cheney, Kansas, a quiet swell of optimism was growing. Jerry Kill, it seemed, was an actual football coach.


On September 25th, 2010, I was feeling that slow, dull headache you get when you go from drinking constantly for several hours to not at all for several more. To add insult to self-sustained injury, I was watching a floundering Tim Brewster lose to a school from the MAC called Northern Illinois University. I vividly remember drinking a coffee in a vain effort at sobering up and witnessing NIU gash our defense for endless, sizable chunks of yardage. The end was clearly near for Tim Brewster and we all probably knew it two weeks prior when he lost to the University of South Dakota. (I should note my memories of that game are less lucid because, to be blunt, that hangover headache didn’t arrive until the next day.)

This point of reference was what would most saliently come to mind when I considered what Jerry Kill could accomplish as the plodding days of the off-season shrank. The 2011 season, and beyond, held at least a modicum of hope that seemed previously foreign in my fandom. I had been at the U during the back-end of Mason’s tenure and the beginning of Brewster’s (and what halcyon days they were), so I was well-accustomed to both immeasurably painful losses and laughably embarrassing ones. Jerry Kill’s team that showed up to TCF in 2010 made me think Minnesota had finally opened up the right door after 50 years of trying to climb through a broken window.


On November 8th, 2014, I was sitting in my apartment in downtown Los Angeles watching Minnesota take on Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium. I was approaching the game with more of a dutiful sense of obligation than any kind of particular excitement. Prior to the previous week’s bye, we had lost on the road to a bad Illinois team and, as I can be the exact type of knee-jerk, hot take-espousing fan I mostly loathe, I had sent out my “season’s over” texts and calmly abandoned the season.

What unfolded over the next several hours was an exacted dismantling of an Iowa team that had just disposed of Northwestern by a score of 48-7. Minnesota would go on to score 51 points that day and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my best day as a Gopher fan in at least ten years. There was a palpable sense that the demons of past Floyd match-ups that had crawled over from the Metrodome were finally being exorcised. Jerry was divorcing us from a large monkey that entrenched itself on our collective back: the need to beat the absolute shit out of Iowa.


Today is October 28th, 2015, and earlier I woke up blissfully ignorant of the seismically sad announcement made by Coach Kill. As is the norm for living on the west coast, much of the days more notable events have occurred before I’ve even poured my coffee. When I eventually read my texts from various friends, and culled the tweets and links that conveyed the how’s and why’s of Jerry Kill’s retirement, I couldn’t shake a feeling of disbelief. This can’t be, were the words that echoed around my skull for my more endless than usual commute to work.

My thoughts go out to Coach Kill and his family. I know this was not an easy decision and cannot fathom the difficulty of the hours leading up to it. What I will remember most about Jerry is that he made me believe that better days were ahead and that brick-by-brick, we would get there. Well, Jerry, were I there to say it to you today, I would say this: we’re already there. Thanks, Coach.


Blog Post: Adolescence, Graffiti, and Life Sucks Die Magazine

At the close of the 90’s I was stumbling into adolescence and desperately seeking a sense of identity. I wanted to cultivate interests that would separate me from my pre-pubescence and give me some nebulous concept of personhood. It was around this time when I developed an affinity for rap music and despite just about every adult in my life telling me it was a phase, it’s something that has remained a relative constant. It was a clumsy time with inauspicious beginnings (Eminem haircuts, FUBU), but I completely immersed myself in it and began shaping my own tastes.

The hip-hop umbrella was a popular one and a lot of kids crowded beneath it. My affections were never unique but after a while they began to feel terrifyingly generic. Things had evolved to a point where just appreciating the culture was no longer sating me and I needed to separate myself–I needed to participate. Predictably, this had disastrous results. I learned after way too much trial and error and that I was never going to be a rapper or a DJ, and being that I was a shapeless blob of arrhythmic whiteboy, the b-boy route was physically out of the question. If you subscribe to the belief that there are four elements of hip-hop (don’t worry: typing that literally made me cringe), there was only one box left to check.

Graffiti was perfect. It had the specific quality of being both expressive and dangerous; you could create, but there was the inherent risk of getting caught and being held accountable for doing so. That made it rebellious. Being 14 and ambiguously angry at the world, the appeal was overwhelming. I had found my niche and there was a great relief that came along with that.

I’ll spare you the specifics of my graffiti career because frankly they’re unaccomplished and of little consequence. The pangs of nostalgia I feel for those days have more to do with what others were doing within the scene, which is maybe an uncool reality, but I’m O.K. with that. What graffiti did for me, ultimately, was foster an ability to appreciate art and sculpted my discernment and taste. There was an inevitability to this because such a large part of graffiti is seeking it out, collecting it, absorbing it.

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Consuming graffiti in the early-2000’s was a much more primitive enterprise than it is now. The Internet has gone a long way to give the art itself a streamlined, infinite gallery space, but when I was first exploring my scene in Minneapolis, it was pretty limited. There was a small section on Art Crimes (which, holy shit, is still around), Firestorm (also still around!), and a site that was actually ahead of its time in TC Graff, which was very thoroughly curated and user friendly. Aside from that, there wasn’t a ton else and the optimal method for consumption was the world of zines. Zines not only kept you abreast of things you may have missed locally, but they also gave you a glimpse of the graffiti world beyond your city. There were some great little publications floating around in Minneapolis at the time (some of which I’m lucky enough to still own), but none could compare to what is inarguably the best graffiti magazine of all time: Life Sucks Die.

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Life Sucks Die was everything a graffiti magazine should be: it was erudite, subversive, and brilliantly curated. It was also professional, glossy, and alien in that there was absolutely nothing like it. It was not unusual to see something deeply pornographic juxtaposed with the graffiti within its pages and you didn’t want your mom finding it. The artists featured were often ones that are now almost mythical in a culture that deals in fame as currency. My sense of graffiti became more fully realized and worldly as a result of leafing through it.

The lasting impression for me, though, was the writing in Life Sucks Die. It was some of the first that made me want to write and I truly believe it played a role in shaping my early voice. Their series of reviews, “Things You May Have Slept On,” had such a spot-on, masterful tone of irony that I still go back to it frequently with amazement. In landscape full of tough-guy posturing, it was funny, self-aware, and didn’t take itself too seriously.

I’m considerably older now and graffiti is at a sizeable distance from my life. It’s something I’ll probably always be cognizant of, but the need to participate dissipated long ago. I owe a debt to graffiti in that it was my gateway into anything creative and I’m the person I am because of it. For an art form that is fatally temporary, there is something indelible to it that once you absorb it, it never really exits.

(I should point out that you can still buy Life Sucks Die here and I encourage you to do so.)