This past Friday, 2 Chainz released his fifth studio album, Rap or Go to the League. Executive-produced by LeBron James, the album focuses on 2 Chainz’s years as a collegiate basketball player — he played at Alabama State University from 1995 to 1997.

The album’s first track, “Forgiven,” features Marsha Ambrosius and opens with a clip of 2 Chainz (real name Tauheed Epps) being announced during his college basketball days. The track touches on the premature death of young black boys living life in the fast lane. 2 Chainz also raps about his arrest for drug-related charges as a high school student, which could have jeopardized his basketball scholarship. The track sounds like something from a Jay-Z album and actually loops a line from Hov’s “Lucifer.”

“Threat 2 Society” is another Hov-like track, with 2 Chainz actually rapping that the beat is “hard enough to put Jay on it.” Unfortunately, we don’t get a guess verse from Jay-Z. However, it’s a solid track that touches on a lot of the same themes on “Forgiven.”

And now for the best song on the album: “Money in the Way.” 2 Chainz is rapping about his drug-dealing past again, but unlike the two previous tracks, he is focusing less on the risks and more on the ends. Produced by Buddah Bless and Jabz, the horn-heavy track will give you HBCU homecoming vibes.

“Statute of Limitations” is what I feared most of the album would sound like. It’s classic 2 Chainz, which isn’t a bad thing, but definitely something I could withstand for more than 10 minutes at a time. And as expected, we get more bars about Tity Boi’s drug-dealing days.

Young Thug provides an assist on “High Top Versace,” which can also be classified as 2 Chainz. It’s the kind of song you have to be drunk to appreciate.

“Whip” features Travis Scott, and sonically, the song is definitely on his turf. It’s the third unremarkable song in a row and you almost want to give up on the album, and then comes “NCAA.”

On “NCAA,” 2 Chainz raps about the exploitation of college athletes, who generate millions of dollars for universities and essentially get paid nothing for it. Yes, some awarded scholarships, but like many others have argued, 2 Chainz says that isn’t enough.

2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar join forces on “Momma I Hit a Lick,” which stays true to its title. Both rappers talk their respective shits about money, success and things of that nature.

Ariana Grande sings the hook on “Rule the World,” which makes good use of an Amerie sample and stands out as one of the best songs on the album. Ty Dolla $ign sings the hook on “Girl’s Best Friend,” another one of the album’s best. The clubs are going to love this one.

“Girl’s Best Friend” is followed by another club banger: “2 Dollar Bill” (featuring Lil Wayne and E-40). The track is a classic Mustard production that will remind you of 2012’s “I’m Different” (also produced by Mustard).

“I Said Me” starts with a few lines from “Favorite Things” (from Sound of Music), but when the beat drops, we hear the melody to Mary J. Blige’s “Take Me As I Am.” The track is another one about 2 Chainz’s weight-moving days, with lines about explaining to his daughter what a drug dealer was (“me” was his response) and how his drug cases were getting in the way of his hoop dreams. The track includes a line where 2 Chainz says he has “no work done like Kendall” — a hilarious reference to Kendall Jenner and how she’s perhaps the only Kardashian/Jenner with the face God gave her.

“I’m Not Crazy, Life Is” features Chance the Rapper and Kodak Black, and is another standout track on the album. 2 Chainz raps about his days as a part-time hustler and part-time basketball player, and how he and his lifestyle chose each other.

“Sam,” the album’s final track,  2 Chainz raps about (and is sometimes critical of) Uncle Sam and his use of tax revenue. The track ends with dubious banter, including a definition of the word “tax,” a rounding up from 37% to 50%, and a retelling of a conversation with Diddy, where Puff says he overpays taxes to be on the safe side.

Rap or Go to the League doesn’t offer a lot of variety from a lyrical standpoint, but it is a decent body of work and perhaps the best album of 2019 so far — granted, we’re only two months in. The lack of variety in lyrics is more than made up for in the range of beats and tempos on the LP, and overall, I think LeBron James might have a future as an executive producer.

Album rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Solange ran up on us with a new album this past week, and the rollout was phenomenal. The album, titled When I Get Home, is a follow-up to 2016’s A Seat at the Table and sticks to its theme of pro-blackness. Sonically, however, it attempts to chart new territory.

The album starts of with “Things I Imagined,” which amounts to a prelude. It’s less than two minutes long consists of Solange repeating the same line for most of the track. The next track is “S McGregor,” a 16-second interlude that features an excerpt of a poem by Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen.

“Down with the Clique” is a jazzy mid-tempo that isn’t necessarily bad, but doesn’t quite jump at you either. It sounds like background music in a blaxploitation movie.

“Clique” is followed by “Way to the Show,” which is arguably the album’s strongest track. Solange offers the album’s biggest vocal performance so far over a beat that almost sounds like a Timbaland production. The track is followed by another interlude, “Can I Hold the Mic,” which features a mid-2000s clip of Princess and Diamond from Crime Mob.

“Stay Flo” — much like “Way to the Show” — sounds like another Timbaland production. It’s very reminiscent of Missy Elliott’s “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” and the ad libs in the background actually sound like Timbo, but it’s actually a Metro Boomin production.

“Dreams” is another track that feels like an interlude even though it isn’t identified as such. The song was produced by Christophe Chassol, Earl Sweatshirt, John Key, Dev Hynes, Jamire Williams and Solange, and will remind you of A Seat at the Table perhaps more than any other on the album. It is followed by another interlude, “Nothing Without Intention.”

“Almeda” is all about black pride and features uncredited additional vocals from The-Dream and Playboi Carti. Produced by John Carroll Kirby, Pharrell Williams and Solange, the song is drum-heavy and I mean that in the worst way possible. It is easily the worst song on the album.

Solange and Sampha reunite on the sparsely produced “Time (Is),” which includes additional vocals from Tyler the Creator and Panda Bear. The song is in keeping with the repetitive nature of most the album, but if you enjoy a piano-driven ballad with a simple melody, you’ll probably appreciate this track.

“My Skin My Logo” is a song that could’ve been great if the entire track sounded like the last minute of the song. Prior to that, we have two rap verses from Solange and Gucci Mane that probably should’ve been shorter. The track ends with what sounds like a climaxing Solange and is followed by yet another interlude, “We Dealing with the Freak’n,” which features a clip of OG sex expert Alexyss K. Tylor.

“Jerrod” is another standout track. It sounds different (i.e. “experimental”) without feeling forced, which is an unfortunate feeling you will get from more than a few tracks on this album. It is followed by “Binz,” co-written by Solange and The-Dream. From a lyrical standpoint, it is probably the most quotable, with Solo sing-rapping that “Dollars never show up on CP time.”

“Beltway” is another interlude disguising as a song, followed by actual interlude, “Exit Scott,” which includes an excerpt of a poem recital by Pat Parker.

“Sound of Rain” is another track that sounds like something Timbaland made, but it is actually a Solange, John Key and Pharrell co-production. On the track, Solange sings that “nobody dress can effeminate” her, which I still don’t fully understand. Overall, it’s an interesting track.

The album’s final interlude (“Not Screwed!”) is followed by it’s final song, “I’m a Witness,” which is short enough (at 1m 52s) to be an interlude. But the good news is that Solange sends us on our way with a beautiful vocal performance.

When I Get Home is a very experimental project, and unfortunately, this is what happens to many artists following up a critically acclaimed body of work. Sometimes, the experiment produces amazing art; other times, it produces trash. When I Get Home gives us a little bit of both, and quite frankly, the hipster-types that live for experimental music will eat it up.

Album rating: 7 out of 10 stars.

2 Chainz just released a video for “Money in the Way,” which is arguably the best song on Rap or Go to the League. The video, which is centered around a time-traveling elevator, shows different examples of getting to the bag no matter what — be it robbery or prostitution. Check it out below.

2 Chainz’s new album, Rap or Go to the League, dropped yesterday, and one of its notable tracks is the Ariana-Grande-assisted “Rule the World.”

Produced by Hitmaka (formerly known as Yung Berg), Cardiak, Paul Cabbin and Rob Holladay, the track samples Amerie’s “Why Don’t We Fall in Love” and was recorded in the same session that gave us the “7 Rings” remix. Check it out below.

On the 35th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s historic sweep at the 26th Annual Grammy Awards, it’s only right that this week’s TBT selection is from that album. “Beat It” was the third single from Thriller and the second of its two No. 1 hits — the other being “Billie Jean.”

Written and produced by MJ (with Quincy Jones receiving a co-production credit), “Beat It” was Michael’s first foray into the rock genre, and he bodied that shit. The song won a Grammy for Record of the Year and another Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. That kind of genre-hopping is something we don’t see often, and even when it does happen, few artists have been able to do it quite like Michael.

The “Beat It” video is said to be inspired by the gang activity Michael witnessed as a kid growing up in Gary, Indiana, and features approximately 80 real-life gang members. Over three decades later, it is still considered one of the greatest videos of all time. Check it out below.

Offset released the video for “Quarter Milli” (featuring Gucci Mane) earlier this week, and if this song is any indication of what Father of 4 sounds like, I’m glad I saved my time and energy. Offset — and the Migos as a whole — seem to have hit a creative roadblock. I’m all in favor of artistic trademarks, but at this point, all three Migos are recycling beats and lyrics.

The quality of the song notwithstanding, the video for “Quarter Milli is actually decent. It is set in the ’20s and shows Offset and La Flare playing bank robbers. Check it out below.

The world might only know them from Santana’s “Maria Maria” — a song they’re only “featured” on despite doing all the singing — but the Product G&B’s best work was 2001’s “Cluck Cluck.”

The song was a single from the Dr. Dolittle 2 soundtrack and also appeared on the duo’s debut album, Ghetto & Blues. It was a hit in my little teenage world (and perhaps on the European charts), but it didn’t make much of an impact on the US charts. Eighteen years later, the song is still very special to me and I’m taken back to much simpler times whenever I hear it. If you’ve never heard this song before, thank me later.

Few songs will have you sold within the first five songs, and “Please Me” is one of them. Sonically, the song is squarely in Bruno Mars territory — or, shall I say, Teddy Riley/Jodeci territory — so it is chock-full of melody. Cardi B’s verses are decent, but the most noteworthy part of the song is Cardi singing and sounding like an actual singer (as opposed to a rapper attempting to sing).

The song sounds a lot like “That’s What I Like,” but manages to do so without feeling too derivative. Both songs were co-produced by the Stereotypes, who also produced “Finesse.”

It’s not clear what album “Please Me” will appear on. Cardi B was expected to release a deluxe edition of Invasion of Privacy, but that never happened and the album is not almost a year old, so it’s likely that this song will be on her second studio album.

I’ve always believed that the ’90s was the golden era of movie soundtracks. So many of the decade’s biggest hits were from soundtracks, and so many of the songs that have stuck with me the longest were from movie soundtracks.

A fine example of this is SWV’s “Can We,” which was on 1997’s Booty Call soundtrack. The track features a then up-and-coming Missy Elliott, who was still months away from releasing her debut single. The song was also written and produced by Missy (along with Timbaland).

The song peaked at No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 despite topping the airplay chart due to limited availability at retail — the record label only shipped a limited number of vinyls and did not issue a CD release. Basically, that’s the equivalent of a song being released today and only being available as a CD. These labels don’t wanna win.

Chart stats aside, the song is a veritable jam among all those in the know. Click play and get your life.