Last Week’s Albums: SremmLife Crew, Gwen Stefani, iLoveMakonnen

SremmLife Crew – Trail Mix

As is customary in hip-hop circles, when you make it big you bring your crew with you, and that’s exactly what brothers Khalif “Swae Lee” Brown and Aaquil “Slim Jxmmi” Brown have down. The duo, better known as Rae Sremmurd, blew up last year with their Southern style hit laden debut, SremmLife, and are looking to give their SremmLife Crew a chance to shine on mixtape Trail Mix.

Unfortunately, Trail Mix is a misogynistic mess that barely passes as an enjoyable listen. Are You Ready? kicks the tape off with a song about the Sremmurd brothers trying to get laid before it all goes down hill with Doggin. The first single released from the tape, the track features Rae Sremmurd and new signee Riff x3, rapping, “I’m back to tossing these bitches / I’m back to doggin these hoes,” over and over. The song is condemning the women using the lad’s for their money, but is followed by They Love Us, a song glorifying women (the word hoe is actually used 22 times) who want to party with them for being rich. I don’t get it either.

It doesn’t get much better from there. Lyrically, Rae Sremmurd run rings around Riff x3, Bobo Swae, Impxct and Jace, while the beats are standard trap fare, with Sonny Digital’s I Don’t Blame Ya the only production I really dug, although it was overshadowed by more terrible lyrics.

While misogyny is rampant throughout hip-hop (I’m a huge fan of the new Kanye even though there are some questionable lyrics), songs like Doggin are too much even for me. I don’t have the answers on how to fix misogyny in hip-hop and the wider music scene, but like the issue of cultural appropriation – a subject that finally came to light last year – there needs to be a strong and continued discourse by the wider music community about how we can stamp it out.

Verdict: Pass.

Gwen Stefani – This Is What The Truth Feels Like

A lot has happened in the 10 years since Gwen Stefani’s last solo album. The Hollaback Girl reunited with No Doubt for the so-so album Push And Shove, become a host on successful talent show The Voice, got divorced from Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale after 13 years of marriage, then announced she was dating country singer Blake Shelton a month later. That’s more than I’ve done in my entire life. Moving on…

Listening to the album, it’s easy to hear Stefani has been inspired by both her marriage break-down and new romance. While she’s claimed TIWTTFL is a break-up album, tracks like opener MiseryMake Me Love You and the tropical Rare are more like celebrations of her new life with new beau Shelton. Even the tracks that deal with the end of her relationship to Rossdale (Used To Love You, Naughty) are upbeat pop numbers that suit Stefani’s bubbly vocals. The majority of tracks have a modern, synth-pop feel, although Where Would I Be? has a bridge that’s a throw back to her Love. Angel. Music. Baby. sound.

For some reason Fetty Wap turns up on the finger clicking Asking 4 It, while the five bonus tracks on the deluxe edition are more filler than anything.

Verdict: There’s nothing new or exciting with TIWTTFL, but it feels good having Stefani back making music.

iLoveMakonnen – Drink More Water 6 

iLoveMakonnen hasn’t really hit the heights many expected after Drake got hold of his smash single Tuesday. Last year’s projects iLoveMakonnen 2, Drink Water 5 and Whip It Up, didn’t really crossover, with the man himself telling Fader he doesn’t think he’s “blown up.” DMW 6 isn’t likely to change that, but it does continue Makonnen’s fascinating evolution as an artist and his slow ascent to the top.

The 11 track tape (his first to be made available commercially) has no features with production handled by a number of low key beat makers. Lyrically, Makonnen’s still crooning about selling drugs (Sellin, Pushin’) and girls (I Only Trip With You, Back Again, Want You), although it must be said he’s refined his sing-rap delivery so it’s no where near as annoying as when he first burst onto the scene.

Verdict: This is another worthy release from Makonnen as fans await his debut album that’ll hopefully see him finally crossover.