Bringing back a blast from the past with a new installment of A Collection of Write-Ups. I started this back in 2020 for reviews that could be condensed to a paragraph or two for releases I felt deserved some shine and attention. This one includes 454, Niontay, Sad Kaioken, and more…
FAST TRAX 3 by 454
This album was recommended to me by my friend Seth Lyndal and usually, I don’t trust everyone with recommendations, but Seth dresses nice so I hit play on this album and I am so thankful I did. 454 is one of those artists that make it hard to explain their sound. He pitches his voice up to a higher tone and usually that’s a crutch, but for 454 it just works. In matching with his high-pitched vocals, the first track KEEP A SMILE features a pitched-up sample, layered with some consistent and fast 808s and chimes that sound like they came straight out of Zelda, too. This song caught my attention, but ICE AGE had me hooked with the first line, “Aye, the way I rock this ice, you woulda thought I was Penguin,” that’s really all I needed to listen to the whole album. 454’s lyrics deal with his upbringing coming from Florida, his work ethic, trying to make those he cares about proud, and his spending habits due to his fame. This is all summed up on my favorite track from the album, and one of my favorite songs of all time: TALES FROM THE HOOD. I love verses where the artist tells you who they are within the words and 454’s verse on this one does this in such a unique and beautiful way that it blows my mind every time I hear it. Specifically two parts, One is the passage: “Life was really harder than I thought I had to ten toe, 10-4 chirp Lil Ricky off the flip phone, Nextel, walk up to the store to get my bitch something,” The beat drops out for a second so you can truly hear that 454 is rapping his ass off then it comes back in on a kick after he says “Nextel” and you’re sent to a different planet. Second is the whole passage from “Cracking down on the team, couldn’t get to the muscle” to the end of the verse. 454 is spitting, but his adlibs in the back singing specific words in the bars are little audio sprinkles on top. BANKRUNNER is my second favorite. This one sounds like the summer and that chant is so infectious that it’s so hard to not run it back over and over again. Very, very solid album and a great introduction to who 454 is, definitely listen to this one if you haven’t already.
Dontay’s Inferno by Niontay
I was first introduced to Niontay when Popstar Benny posted a snippet of his song ATL Freestyle featuring MIKE and Niontay. What immediately grabbed me about Niontay was his flow, I had never heard anything like it before. Full transparency, I didn’t like it when I first heard it, but I had never heard a rapper from Milwaukee before. As I listened more and more though, I was like enthused that I had heard it. Niontay dips in and out and different flows at a moment’s notice. It’s really genius because it allows him to mesh with any beat that’s thrown at him. That superpower is immediately evident on the first track, Da City of a Hunnid Plays. It truly sounds like he’s having a casual conversation that just so happens to rhyme. He sounds so laidback over this production containing some samples, hi-hats and kicks, and the grooviest bassline that sounds like he’s rapping in a smoke-filled cafe. THANK ALLAH is pure rap. Niontay sounds like a veteran spitting game to a young hot-head, every bar contains a gem to absorb into your life. My favorite thing Niontay does is when he says something, then laughs at the absurdity of it. He does that a couple times in this song and it’s definitely a personal highlight. Another thing that Niontay excels at is his ear for beats. One second it’ll be a fast-tempo dancing beat, then the direct song after that will be a slower-tempo sample-heavy rap beat. 10/4 and WHEREDEYAT??? are neck and neck for my favorite songs off the project. 10/4 is a beautifully composed track featuring Niontay and DORIS rapping about their vices, upbringings, hustler mentalities, and avoiding the trappings of fame. The beat is a chipmunk-speed sample accompanied by a hypnotic drum loop and a bassline straight from heaven. WHEREDEYAT??? was produced by and features MIKE and it’s so wild how well they gel together. Their chemistry is at an all-time high, they trade off bar passages like throwing continuous alley-oops to each other and continuing the rhyme scheme. It’s so awesome, and that beat? The best way to describe it is, it’s as if a game show’s theme song out of nowhere took acid and decided to kick the song into the highest gear, over and over again. Please listen to Niontay. He’s so sick.
2STEP/PICNIC by iNTRO
His first official release since 2021’s Welcome To Next Year, iNTRO welcomes us into his new phase with his trademark flow and superior ear for beats. 2STEP reminds me of early 2000s southern rap on a summer day. iNTRO is spitting over a beat that never drops so you’re constantly hooked to every word he says more and more in anticipation, but even with the beat not dropping you’re not mad because he’s rapping so well. He sounds right at home over this sample-heavy production, rapping about his abilities, his preferences, and the team around him. After a brief intermission, the vibe totally switches to PICNIC. If 2STEP is a summer day, then PICNIC is the perfect summer night. It sounds like driving through the city with the windows down, and it’s the perfect temperature for it all. iNTRO uses this beat to rap about how after going through a rocky period in a relationship, there are better days coming with the warmer weather. Complete with trips, flowers, and of course a pre-planned picnic. The video is a super simple concept, iNTRO is in a field where his car is parked, after putting his jacket in the trunk he sits on top of his car and raps the second half of the song before driving away. Sometimes, a video doesn’t have to do too much. As long as it captures the energy of the song, its a win. This is going to be requested at every party and cookout, so get ready for it.
Ice Road by synthpapi
Pap is back with his signature melodic flow that we all know and love. This track is super groovy and synth-heavy. The melody is driven by these synths that seem like they skitter around your ears and they’re accompanied by what I can only describe as the super-specific squeak that swings make when they go up in the air. Some hi-hats and 808s round the beat out and make sure that your head doesn’t stop bobbing while you listen. The video sees Pap engaging in a water-gun fight in what looks like the middle of nowhere, but what’s crazy is: He brought a water pistol against someone who has a water-shotgun. Terrible strategy. Plus, there’s a cameo by my favorite social media influencer, Little white boy. Gotta check it out just for that. I originally thought this song was about having sex with lyrics like, “Let’s shoot a movie in the dark, blast you with my cosmic glock, my shit finna go pop,” but after asking Tai personally he revealed it’s about trusting himself. Believing in your vision to know that with whatever you choose to do, you’ll be fine. Love that, plus this song is only a minute and twenty-two seconds long, so it’s perfect to loop.
Waters Of March by Dew From 2001
As I’m writing this, it’s warm as shit outside. When the sun is out, you want to hear major chord music that makes the world seem saturated. This track is a perfect example of one of these songs. Now I’m not gonna lie, when I saw this cover and knowing who Dew is, I thought this was going to be some wild experimental rap. Even as I was listening to It the first time, I thought it was going to take a hard left at some point. But I was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t. This sounds like those 60s folk-rock songs made by bands that moved from the midwest to California and felt that sun then started smoking copious amounts of weed then made some of the best songs ever. The video, which was co-written and co-directed by Dew is also super beautiful and fits the sound of the track very well. It’s like those videos you make of your friends, and you look back over it after and almost start to cry because the moment was so good. I almost teared up watching it. Over a guitar, piano, some beautiful background harmonies, and a fucking flute (!!!) Dew delivers a beautiful track to soundtrack your daytime adventures.
Tekken by Sadkaioken
One thing that should never fall in importance in music is the cover art. A good cover can make a mid album memorable just because the art resonated with you. Tekken is far from mid, but its high rating is raised higher because of that cover. Imagine seeing that cover then hitting play on POP BACK and getting met with those synth strings and those 808s? Then, Sadkaioken starts the hook and you’re immediately drawn in. He’s in such a pocket that your full attention is given to his every word. Mixing the vocals with the raps is a beautiful touch. I mean this in the best way possible, but LBJ is going to g platinum on TikTok as soon as someone makes a dance video to it. It’s got the perfect tempo and sequencing for a viral video of a bunch of teens with bright smiles and fresh shoes dancing in a parking garage without a care in the world. Personally, .45 is the best song on here. Before we heard the album, we saw the video for it and we all knew that it would be a hit. The video was released not too long before the album was and features Sadkaioken passionately rapping in various locations. You can tell he means every word he says as his hand (specifically his right one) is hitting every word like the ball bouncing on subtitles. The beat (produced by Dollhaus) starts off with a sample groaning with some piano keys getting hit at the top of the loop which gives it a menacing yet calm air. This song sounds like you’re driving on the way to beat somebody up. Sadkaioken is flowing his ass off, too. His verses are littered with anime references as pleads with losers to get off their knees or face the consequences. If this is your intro to Sadkaioken, it’s a proper one.
Make sure you give these releases a listen. There’s so much good music out here and these are only a fraction of ’em! Love to all these artists for making life worth living and the grass a little bit greener!
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