The Catch Up: reviewing hip-hop’s latest releases

By Jake Alsko

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Big K.R.I.T.

Cadillactica

Released: November 10, 2014

Def Jam/Cinematic Music Group

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While just two official albums in, Cadillactica marks southern rapper/producer Big K.R.I.T.’s sixth album-quality project. K.R.I.T. showcased his maturity and insight by approaching 2010’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here2011’s Return of 4Eva and 2012’s 4eva N A Day as albums rather than cobbled together mixtapes, but he also revealed that he may have spread himself too thin when it came to the release of his debut album, Live From The Underground

His hand was shown, his ideals understood: K.R.I.T. had already spoiled fans with so many album-quality cuts, it didn’t seem like there was much more we could learn about what made the do-it-all artist tick. To some degree, the subject matter would be irrelevant. No, if LFTU was to surpass expectations, it would have to be through sheer execution.

LFTU was well-received in general, but it wasn’t what the hip-hop community has come to expect of debut albums from rappers of K.R.I.T.’s caliber: a seamlessly accessible self-reflecting epic capable of launching an artist into stardom.

That opportunity has passed, and Cadillactica finds K.R.I.T. sounding rejuvenated, no longer under the pressure that caused LFTU to wilt. The improved execution in K.R.I.T.’s second go-around is most evident in the singles.

Appearing in succession, the title track “Cadillactica,” “Soul Food” featuring Raphael Saadi and “Pay Attention” featuring Rico Love sound decisively organic compared to the singles of LFTU. In Cadillactica, K.R.I.T. finally proves he can make a well-rounded commercial project, erasing any remnants of the “mixtape rapper” label. 

Final Verdict: B

Favorite Tracks: “Cadillactica,” “Soul Food,” “King of the South,” “Third Eye,” “Mt. Olympus (Reprise)” 


Logic

Under Pressure

Released: October 21, 2014

Def Jam/Visionary Music Group

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Logic is that annoying guy who is always nice to you and has never done anything wrong to you, but still manages to piss you off. Many “real hip-hop” fans would tell you he’s one of the saviors that’s bringing “real hip-hop” back, whatever that means. But at this point in his career, Logic is nothing more than a technically skilled rapper with a very limited vision, ironic given his label imprint Visionary Music Group. 

On previous mixtapes, Logic had always bitten Kendrick Lamar (age 27), J. Cole (29) and Drake (28) like a 16-year-old looking for his own voice and sound, but now he’s 24, and the “homage-paying” is more egregious and off-putting than ever before.

I’m Gone,” which finds Logic using Lamar’s patented robotic self-harmonizing, sounds like a Section.80 rip off that a YouTube rapper would misleadingly title as: “I’m Gone – Kendrick Lamar NEW SONG 2014”.

The “inspiration” continues. “Never Enough” is a repackaged “Hol’ Up.” The title track “Under Pressure” is “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.”

The robotic interludes that bite A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders Tour Guide” are even more cringe worthy. The interruptions provide useless and generic information about the album’s creation that’s as hollow as the music itself. 

Sputnikmusic said it best: 

“It’s not a verbatim copy of Kendrick’s work, but it’s every bit the stylistic counterfeit, and while it, along with the other mentions above, could be seen as imitations done in reverence had they been released on a free mixtape, their use on an album is no doubt a calculated effort to profit off of the ideas and work of another who did it first, in an attempt to capitalize on the ignorance of those listeners who may not know better – that’s biting, and we’ve never stood for it in hip-hop.”

Logic may have his own stories to tell, but he has no original (or even semi-original) way in which to tell them. Logic essentially finds another’s song to serve as a template for his own and goes from there. No beat, no flow, no cadence is sacred.

Aside from his technical skills, nothing seems to come natural to Logic. Even the album’s intro — where Logic tries to find the right pitch for the track’s piano — wreaks of rehearsal.  

For how often Logic copies his contemporaries, he must be aware of Drake’s stance that it’s not “about who did it first, it’s ’bout who did it right.” But Logic is now five projects deep into his catalog, and he has yet to stake his claim for either side of that statement. His affinity for plagiarism offers the conclusion that he never will.  

Final Verdict: F