Beats carry the Swizz project from start to finish

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If producer albums were rated on the production alone, Swizz Beatz’ Poison would get a 5 out of 5. The producer combination of himself, AraabMUZIK, Gian Bravo and Bink!, not to mention co-EP J. Cole, crafted a series of beats that play well off of each other to seemingly produce separate elements of one cohesive vibe. The playlist goes from one neck breaker to the next and while each song has its own sound and feel, the transitions feel right.

Unfortunately, more elements go into producing a great album than the actual production, and the lyrical highs of this project make the lows jump out like a red stain on a crisp white tee. On its own, “Come Again” with UK’s Giggs is a fine track, but following the fire, Lil Wayne-assisted single, “Pistol On My Side (P.O.M.S.),” Giggs’ limitations as a rapper are exposed. It’s much more enjoyable hearing Weezy repeat “pistol on my side, trigger finger on the job” than it is to hear Giggs say “man” every line.

The same juxtaposition is presented when Jim Jones’ “Preach” attempts to follow “Something Dirty/Pic Got Us” with Jadakiss, Styles P and Kendrick Lamar. Swizz pulls prime Capo out of Jimmy on an enjoyable track, but classic Kiss and Ghost back-and-forth bars are unparalleled. Young Thug has to try, and ultimately fails, to follow consecutive tracks by Nas and Pusha T with “25 Soldiers.” The lyrical shortcomings aren’t knocks against any of those artists, as the aforementioned are all tough acts to follow for even some of the greatest rappers. It is, however, a knock against an otherwise solid body of work composed by Swizz.

Overall, Poison is an enjoyable listen and the highs are good enough to carry listeners through the duration of a short 10-track, 33-minute whirlwind. You might be too busy trying to process something from a previous track to even notice the sub-par lyrics and lazy hooks on a few songs. If not, the beats are also a nice distraction to keep your head nodding. And ultimately, that’s what you listen to a Swizz Beatz project for.

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Love Me Now? sets Tory Lanez up for big 2019

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Tory Lanez, the singer-rapper whose real name (Daystar) is more of a stage name than his made-up stage name, dropped his third studio album on Oct. 26.

Love Me Now? is Lanez’s second album release of the year, serving as the turn-up to the wind-down of his March project Memories Don’t Die. His second studio effort drew criticisms of being unoriginal and attempting to imitate the styles of other popular acts, including his personal hometown rival Drake. It’s no surprise, then, that on the press run for Love Me Now?, Lanez explains he took a mixtape approach to this project, which is how he believes he produces his best music.

The differences between the two projects are stark in a way that the two sides of Drake’s Scorpion are different. The proximity of the releases, however, wouldn’t make it a surprise if Love Me Now? and Memories Don’t Die were also supposed to serve as a double-disc album. If that were the plan, the reason to evacuate it would obviously be to avoid further comparisons to the 6 god. The mistake was releasing Memories Don’t Die prior to Love Me Now?, which is a more enjoyable project and displays more of Lanez’s own original sound. Unfortunately, the prior project may have dimmed anticipation and subsequently the overall reach of the latter.

If LMN? was actually recorded as a separate album, it shows great growth within a short period of time and should serve as a springboard for Lanez to catapult himself back into the conversation of top hip-hop singer-song makers going into 2019. In order to do that, however, Lanez will need to dive deeper on future efforts. As far as content, LMN? doesn’t offer much for people who don’t plan to skip cuffing season and thot all winter. But if that’s your plan, relate away. As Tory said on “ThE RUn oFF,” “Baby Ima/smoke this marijuana/and do what I wanna … I be all up in the streets/doing my thing and fucking these freaks.”

The album’s lack of subject matter depth is saved by a star studded feature list, including Chris Brown, Trey Songz and 2 Chainz, and banging production. It’s far from a classic, but LMN? should keep Tory in rotation for a little while.

Towns, Wiggins can be better for Butler fiasco

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The only thing missing from Timberwolves practice Wednesday was introduction music, as Jimmy Butler showed up like a surprise WWE Royal Rumble entrant ready to cause chaos.

After a late arrival, he reportedly called out and cursed at teammates, coaches and executives during the non-public session, while teaming with the third-stringers and beating the starters. His inaugural participation in this offseason’s training camp, and the subsequent drama, was obviously premeditated as ESPN and Rachel Nichols were in Minnesota to get an interview from the disgruntled star almost immediately after.

What’s not as obvious is whether Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau was an accomplice to the ruckus – in on it from the start. The coach failed to confront his star player during the outburst, and Butler even suggested during his sit down with Nichols that Thibodeau secretly enjoyed it.

Some in local media believe Thibs’ job should be at stake for letting this fly, whether or not he was aware beforehand. I think the bigger problem is that Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins didn’t respond how you would want the building blocks of your franchise to respond. Both max-contract players, they were apparently victims of the verbal onslaught in practice and rather than confronting Butler, accepting the challenge and beating him on the court, they lost to a group of third-stringers led by Butler.

This outcome proves every point Butler has been trying to make since we learned of his trade request. You would think the outcome also lights a fire under everyone in the organization – which would be the reason Thibodeau possibly enjoyed what transpired. It forces his entire team to look at themselves and see what it is that Butler has in his competitive makeup that they’re lacking, and it forces the owner to see why Thibodeau never wanted to trade Butler in the first place.

Even if those moments of reflection occur, however, what has already transpired can’t be reversed, of course. So as Butler alluded to, everything is not fixed. Things may never get fixed with him on this roster. But the two people who should be better for this situation are the two being paid like stars, even though they’ve never led a team to the playoffs (2017-18 doesn’t count. Butler led that team).