Mariah Carey’s 15th studio album, Caution,  dropped a few hours ago, and let me start by telling you that she did not come to appease anyone who prefers Mariah the balladeer. Whew chilay. This shit is hella “urban” (as they say).

The album starts with “GTFO” and “With You,” the album’s first two singles, the former of which has grown on me significantly since its release. The third song on the album is the title track, which is a sexy mid-tempo co-produced by Mariah, No I.D., SLMN and LUCA. It doesn’t sound like any No ID beat I’ve ever heard, so I’m guessing Mariah might have combined tracks to make this one. Whatever the case, the track is dope.

Tracks No. 4 and No. 5 are “A No No” and “The Distance,” and I have already expressed how amazing I think both songs are. They are followed by “Giving Me Life,” which has a beat that is laid-back and hard at the same time. If you’re familiar with her catalog, it may remind you of “Lullaby.” On the chorus, we hear Mariah reminiscing about a lover giving her life since she was 17 and feeling herself “like Norma Jean,” better known as Marilyn Monroe (one of Mariah’s biggest idols). The track features Slick Rick and Blood Orange, the latter of which co-produced the track but didn’t provide vocals.

“One Mo’ Gen,” like much of the album, is about secks; however, Mariah is somewhat more explicit on this track. It starts with Mariah asking if you like it when she puts her lips there. I don’t know where “where” is, but I’m reaching for my anointing oil. The beat is bass-heavy, and I hate to say this, but it kinda reminds me of Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener.” That being said, you can’t really copy someone who has modeled her career after yours, so that’s that on that.

Mariah shoots her shot at a potential lover on “8th Grade.” This one smacked me in the face right away, and that’s a huge statement because everything on the album so far has gotten a thumps up from me. Timbaland, who co-produced the track, comes through with his signature ad libs towards the end of the track.

“Stay Long Love You” is what the kids call a bop. The beat is bouncy as hell and Gunna (who sounds a lot like Young Thug) was a great addition. Co-produced by Mariah and the Stereotypes, this is by far my favorite song on the album. Mariah got this one right and I’m not sure why this wasn’t a lead single. If radio gives this song a chance — and if Mariah commits to making a music video that isn’t trash — this could be a huge hit.

The standard version of the album closes with its one and only ballad, “Portrait.” The song is will give you “Close My Eyes” vibes, not just because of how piano-driven it is or how personal the lyrics are, but because the melody is one that doesn’t quite settle. I’m sure Mariah put her heart into it, but this ain’t it.

The Japanese edition of the album has an 11th track called “Runway,” co-produced by Mariah, Lido and Skrillex — “The Distance” production team (sans Poo Bear). Over a sped-up loop of her own song, “Butterfly,” Mariah sings about overcoming struggles. At this point, there are few people in show business better-qualified to speak on this subject than Mariah Carey — she has been through it all and lived to tell about it.

Caution is the best album I’ve heard in a long time, and it hurts to know that it might go generally unnoticed. Mariah came through with the beats, the melodies, the vocals and the lyrics, and no objective observer can say that this album isn’t solid.

The saddest thing about the music industry is how quickly and intently it discards seasoned artists, especially when they are female. If Ariana Grande or Normani or even Beyoncé (who’s no spring chicken) put out an album like this, people would take note; but unfortunately, it was released by a 28-year veteran who simply isn’t on anyone’s radar anymore. This album will probably debut high on the charts, but it will (unfortunately) be forgotten soon, and that has nothing to do with its quality and everything to do with the basic ways of the music-buying audience.

Album rating: 9 out of 10 stars.

Normani just dropped a collabo with 6LACK that I’m not sure if I’m feeling. If she’s going to take her rightful place at the throne, she’s gonna need to come a lot harder than this.

Sonically, “Waves” is very much a 6LACK song — when you hear it, you’ll know exactly what I mean. And while it isn’t terrible, it doesn’t necessarily jump at you either. Check it out for yourself.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard (real name Russ Jones) would have been 50 years old today, and it’s Thursday, so you know what time it is.

“Got Your Money” (featuring Kelis) is a hilariously profane banger about a pimp coming to collect his money. The track samples Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” and Rick James’s “Cold Blooded.”

Fittingly, the video includes scenes from Dolemite. Happy birthday and RIP to the great ODB!

Today in 2003, Jay-Z released his eighth studio album, The Black Album. At the time, Hov faked us out with a retirement announcement that we now know to be false — he has released five studio albums since then. Even though it wasn’t a retirement, it was definitely the conclusion of an era; after giving us an album a year since 1996, Jay-Z slowed his pace drastically.

The album’s three singles, “Change Clothes,” “Dirt off Your Shoulder” and “99 Problems,” peaked at No. 10, No. 5 and No. 30, respectively. Interestingly enough, the lowest-charting single from that album is arguably its most enduring track and widely considered to be a classic.

With over 3.5 million copies sold in the US alone, The Black Album is one of Jay-Z’s most successful LPs. Watch the video for “Change Clothes” (featuring Pharrell Williams) below — because even though it is the least-remembered of the album’s singles, I will always be partial to a melody.

Today in 2008, Beyoncé released her third studio album, I Am… Sasha Fierce. The double-disc project had one CD with only ballads and another with more up-tempo songs. Sasha Fierce is an alter ego that Bey had introduced to us early in her solo career, describing her as a more in-your-face version of herself.

That era of Beyoncé’s career got off to a controversial start when BC Jean, the co-writer and original performer of  “If I Was a Boy” — one of the album’s two lead singles — kicked up hella dust about the song being released without her permission. At the time, she had made social media posts complaining about the song being stolen from her, but an agreement was eventually reached.

Less than two years prior, it had been revealed that Beyoncé didn’t write “Irreplaceable” despite being credited as on of its songwriters. She has since been described as having done “vocal arrangement,” but it was the beginning of her reputation as being a little shady behind-the-scenes. The “If I Was a Boy” incident made things worse, and then months after that, Chrisette Michele  revealed that “Ego” — another single from the album — had been offered to her prior to Beyoncé recording it; she also revealed that the version she had been presented was identical to Bey’s version, except for one key difference: Beyoncé wasn’t credited as a writer. However, the version on Sasha Fierce listed Bey as one of its writers.

These anecdotes are necessary because they help provide some context about the perception of Beyoncé as an artist and why some people are obstinate in their refusal to give her the respect she deserves. It also explains why she is now especially diligent in crediting contributors to her music — “Hold Up” from Lemonade has 15 credited songwriters.

Anyway, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get to the good stuff. I Am… Sasha Fierce saw Beyoncé raise the bar as an artist. Her musical range expanded and her live performances got even better. She had already established herself as the best in the game, but this era was certainly a reinforcement.

The Sasha Fierce era also showed us that you could make an iconic music video without breaking the bank. The “Single Ladies” video, which Bey has described as one of the cheapest she ever made, was by far the biggest video of the year. The song also became her fifth No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and her last until 2017).

I Am… Sasha Fierce would go on to spawn a total of four top 10 hits in the US and sell over eight million copies worldwide. The album would also net Beyoncé six trophies at the 2010 Grammy Awards — a record that still stands as the most wins in one year for a female artist. Among her wins was the award for Song of the Year, which is major when you consider how the Recording Academy shuts out black contemporary artists from the general categories.
The Grammys have gotten dubiously stingy towards Beyoncé in the years since, but despite that, her profile has gotten larger and larger. Today, she is now considered one of the greatest artists of all time, and any fair observer would agree that she has earned every single bit of that respect. All hail the Queen.

Below is my favorite song from I Am… Sasha Fierce, “Halo.”

I feel like all the random live performances I’ve ever posted have been by Miguel, but I can’t help that he’s so dope. A few weeks ago, he performed an amazing rendition of “Banana Clip” on Austin City Limits,s and it would be unkind if I didn’t share it with everyone I could. Thank me later.

As if 23 tracks weren’t enough, Lil Wayne just added a few more songs to Tha Carter V. “In This House” features Gucci Mane and samples Frank Ski’s “Whores in This House”; we get a new version of “What About Me,” now featuring Post Malone; and Tay Keith fucks these niggas up on “Hasta La Vista.” Listen to all three tracks below.



“In This House” (featuring Gucci Mane)


“What about Me” (featuring Post Malone)


“Hasta La Vista”