Creatively Boundless

Deal or No Deal – Hill Coulson by ajallen92
Local and upcoming rapper Wiz Khalifa’s sophomore album, Deal Or No Deal, was recently released. It peaked on the iTunes music store as the top selling hip-hop album and number nine on the overall charts. Deal Or No Deal is partly a compilation of previous hits, but it also features ten brand new songs from a variety of local hip-hop producers. The title stems from Wiz’s controversial decision to drop his major record label deal with Warner Brothers and release the album independently. Overall, this album serves as a fresh reminder of the young rapper’s accomplishments and a buffer for what is yet to come. Even Wiz himself acknowledged that he is still working towards his “debut, for sure album.” However, that doesn’t stop Deal Or No Deal from sounding great and a surefire for producing some quality radio hits.
It begins with “Bout Ya’ll” – a pop-influenced medley featuring new to the scene Josh Everette who appears a couple more times during the album. Everette is reminiscent of a Trey Songz or Drake type rap-singer and complements Wiz surprisingly well. His presence signals a change in Wiz’s musical style from a hardcore “Pistolvania” rapper to more of a radio-friendly pop artist. Also featured is Curren$y of Young Money fame and often associated with superstar Lil’ Wayne. After teaming up with Khalifa to form the How Fly mixtape, they have been working together ever since. Interspersed throughout the album are re-mastered songs from Khalifa’s previous mixtapes, Prince of the City 2 and Flight School, such as “Who I Am” and “Take Away”. Although veteran fans may be disappointed with hearing repeats, these blasts from the past function well as get-to-know-Wiz essentials for newcomer listeners. The two masterfully produced breakout singles, “Red Carpet (Like A Movie)” and “This Plane”, show promise to gain national radio play and expand national promotion. Finally, the album ends on a nostalgic note with “Young Boy Talk”, produced by fellow Taylor Gang member Sledgren. It brings to mind the memorial songs of days gone by where Wiz name-dropped his city on a daily basis.
All in all, Deal Or No Deal is a solid release with mostly memorable songs and a couple of not-so-memorable ones. I would give this album a rating of 7.5 out of 10 for a great production value, thought-out choice of featured guests, and the bold audacity of putting out a record without a major label. The only downsides are some repetition in the lyrics and that there were no songs that really stood out from the others to me. However, I highly recommend that you purchase this album to support an excellent Pittsburgh artist, and more importantly to support an alumnus of Allderdice!

BP3 – AJ Allen by ajallen92

As one of the most influential rappers of his time Jay-Z seeks to make what he told MTV was “a new classic,” in the The Blueprint 3. With The Blueprint 3 being his 11th number one album, according to Rolling Stone, Jay-Z exceeds music legend Elvis Presley to become the solo artist with the most number one albums of all time.

There are many elements that have contributed to the success of The Blueprint 3. Jay-Z’s extensive list of collaborators for The Blueprint 3 includes Luke Steele, Rihanna, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Young Jeezy, Drake, J. Cole, Kid Cudi, Pharrell, and Mr. Hudson. Jay-Z also utilizes a wide range of producers such as Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, Timbaland, and No I.D. The great diversity of this album assists Jay-Z significantly in capturing the essence of the “new classic” sound that he was attempting to grasp.

In a recent interview with Billboard Jay-Z talks about his track “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” as an attempt to stir things up. Jay-Z states that the track was intended to go against the grain and challenge the rapid evolution of hip-hop. Ironically enough the track was not only produced but also encouraged by rapper Kanye West, who not too long ago developed an album completely dependent on the voice enhancing software. As the first single released from The Blueprint 3, “D.O.A” set the tone for the album as one that opposed the nature of contemporary hip-hop.

Not only is The Blueprint 3 appealing to the ears, but it also carries significant potential to progress hip-hop into a genre where established artists can propel their incipient colleagues into successful careers. In “A Star is Born” Jay-Z promulgates his hip-hop colleagues and gives panegyrics to those who he sees as nascent.

The Blueprint 3 is a diverse album that varies in subject matter, music, and style. There are jazzy tracks such as “Thank You”, “ poppy tracks such as “Empire State of Mind”, hip-hoppy tracks such as “One To The Next One”, and tracks that have their own unique style such as “D.O.A.”

The amalgamation of what Jay-Z calls “the forgotten pieces of hip-hop” are what has made The Blueprint 3 such a great success. As he told MTV, he attempts to deviate from the newly developed superficial standards that listeners have for hip-hop. He wants his music to reflect that, “It’s not about radio, it’s not about making gimmicks, it’s still about making music.”