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Mace & Crown | April 24, 2018

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Monarch Music Minute: Lupe Fiasco, Hollyn, Overkill

Adam Flores

Lupe Fiasco – ‘DROGAS Light’ 💿💿💿💿💿

“DROGAS Light” is the latest offering by the American rapper, record producer and entrepreneur Wasalu Muhammud Jaco, known by his stage name Lupe Fiasco. Fiasco takes the stage under his real name when fronting rock band, Japanese Cartoon. As an entrepreneur, he is CEO of 1st & 15th Entertainment.

Fiasco’s sixth studio compilation showcases his hip-hop songwriting and musicianship to date as he continues writing from the anti-establishment spectrum. Each track delivers clever and insightful lyricism over the ingenious background of carefully scored instrumental tracks.

Enlisting the services of fellow artists Ty Dolla $ign, Bianca Sings and Simon Sayz among others, the new record, which dropped on Feb. 10, proves a hip-hop powerhouse. Lyrically, there is a lot to take in. The Chicago-raised Fiasco does not hold back exploring social issues in a unique, street language, a voice he accrued as part of his highly cultured upbringing.

Tracks such as “Promise,” “Tranquillo (feat. Rick Ross & Big K.R.I.T.),” “Pick Up the Phone,” “Wild Child (feat. Jake Torrey)” and “More Than My Heart (feat. Rxmn and Salim)” present an eclectic range of sound on the 14-track setlist.

“It’s Not Design (feat. Salim)” brings a creative changeup later on the album. Fueled on today’s hip-hop laced connotations musically and lyrically, the ‘70s “Soul Train” vibe with stacked vocal lines in the chorus brings forward a refreshing, updated hybrid sound.

Though Fiasco rejects vulgarity and misogynistic themes found within hip-hop, he is against censorship in music.

“DROGAS Light” is a must for hip-hop fans. Lupe Fiasco’s high production standards, carefully choreographed mix of sounds and vocals, A-list guest appearances and an infectious energy continues a prominent trek for the multifaceted, hip-hop artist.

Stream the album on Spotify here.

Hollyn – ‘One-Way Conversations’ 💿💿💿💿

Ohio-born Holly Marie Miller, better known by her stage name Hollyn, presented her debut release, “One-Way Conversations,” on Feb. 10. A 2013 “American Idol” season 12 alumna, she is currently known for her vocal mix of pop, R&B and Christian music.

Identified as a singer-songwriter within the Contemporary Christian music (CCM) world, the 11-track offering showcases Hollyn’s dance-pop crossover sensibilities. Her exposition, “Can’t Live Without,” lyrically forges not just a retrospection of her Christian faith, but also in every day, of this world relationships.

This lyrically unique presentation proves the album’s worth to a wide audience. With catchy beats and sonic textures, each track strives to reach out and convey a message of faith, hope and love. “Love with Your Life” further displays the soaring urgency and dynamic range embedded in Hollyn’s voice.

“Obvious?” and “Waiting For” exemplify the more introspective moments: hurt, pain and difficult decisions. These notions are reflective of trials for anyone, regardless of gender; yet, they typify the emotional outcry from the female point-of-view, a cliché seen too often in the female pop idiom.

Hollyn enlists the help of fellow CCM veteran and crossover artist tobyMac on the track “Go,” also featuring Diverse City. She will be touring alongside tobyMac this spring.

Hollyn’s new record shifts effortlessly from track to track. Most cuts rely on and carry the Ellie Goulding vibe further marking the genre crossover tendencies. Her voice leans on a raw, honest delivery similar to CCM artist Kari Jobe, but with a stronger, deliberate approach.

There is not a strong sense of facing more contemporary social issues, lyrically. Challenging themes presented are sugarcoated and softened. A more aggressive, overall approach would set apart this album.

Stream the album on Spotify here.

Overkill – ‘The Grinding Wheel’ 💿💿💿💿💿

New Jersey thrash metal outfit OverKill return with their 18th studio effort, “The Grinding Wheel.” Released on Feb. 10, this epic assault on the sonic senses continues the legacy of what the band is renown for in their long, coveted history spanning more than three decades.

The new record continues the “loud and proud” trademark fans have come to expect from the veteran metal moguls. Since 1980, Overkill has had plenty of success and some rough turbulence in their musical presentations to fans. However, “The Grinding Wheel” outdoes itself, even to the surprise of the band.

“It’s always best to try to make it better or at least think in your mind that it is going to be better. That becomes the challenge. I think that is what keeps the band rolling,” frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth said.

Lead track “Mean, Green, Killing Machine” sets the pace for an unequivocal, brutal onslaught of razor sharp guitars, deafening drums and screaming vocals. Occasional progressive elements such as abrupt tempo and mood variances, intricate instrumental lines and unique, distortion-ladened guitar passages set this collection of tracks apart from others.

Through their volatile setlist, “Our Finest Hour” and “Come Heavy” confirm Overkill’s unmatched songwriting abilities, similar to a Judas Priest and Accept tonal approach.

While most thrash metal bands attempt to capture the aesthetic, Overkill defines the genre. Along with their “Anthrax” counterpart, they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

“The Grinding Wheel” is a welcome addition and kick in the ass to the metal set. With articulate vocal delivery, incendiary musicianship, and a no-holds-barred approach, Overkill has raised the bar of thrash metal, exceeding expectations of fans along with their own.

Stream the album on Spotify here.

Rating System:

💿 — Face palm.
💿💿 — Eh…
💿💿💿 — We’re getting there.
💿💿💿💿 — I’ll listen to it twice, even.
💿💿💿💿💿 — Hell yes!