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Mace & Crown | March 24, 2018

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Monarch Music Minute: Kevin Gates, Macklemore, Matthew West

Adam Flores | Senior Writer

Kevin Gates – ‘By Any Means 2’ 💿💿💿💿

Courtesy Bread Winners’ Association

Kevin Gates “By Any Means 2’s” title seems appropriate considering his current condition serving time in a Chicago prison after pleading guilty last year to felony gun possession. Wife Dreka Gates handled executive control of this mixtape.

On July 10, Dreka tweeted, “BTW working on Kevin’s new project right now and I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous as F b/c I’m not getting any input from him & he’s (1) (2) fully entrusted me w/everything so there’s a lot of pressure! I respect real artists and their artistry and to be making ALL of the (3) decisions is scary but rest assured the music is always fire as F!

“By Any Means 2” is a continuation of his 2014 “By Any Means” narrative. Lead track “No Love” sets the tone as Gates declares, “What a hell of a feelin’, I’m livin’ large / I’m a hell of a n—-, I’m still in charge.

Gates’ lyrical strengths are unbalanced with sparse, musical arrangements and beats. With “What If,” “Had To” and “Beautiful Scars (feat. PnB Rock),” older tracks added to the fresh mix, the 14-track effort proves his career is not on hold, adding a bold, insightful chapter.

Macklemore – ‘Gemini’ 💿💿💿

Courtesy Bendo LLC

“Gemini” is Macklemore sans Ryan Lewis and is the Seattle rapper/songwriter’s second solo album, the first being 2005’s “The Language of My World.” Preceding the new record’s release were the lead single “Glorious (feat. Skylar Grey),” followup track “Marmalade (feat. Lil Yachty)” and the promotional single, “Good Old Days (feat. Kesha).”

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone about “Gemini,” Macklemore said, “It’s not extremely politically motivated or heavily subject- or concept-oriented. I think it’s mostly the music that I wanted to hear. It’s the music that I wanted to go get into my car and listen to. I wanted it to be fun.”

“Gemini’s” 16-track offering gets some help from a host of fellow music industry artists such as Migo’s Offset, King Draino, and Eric Nally to name a few. The collaborative spirit within the new record’s overall production reflects sonic changes and shifts throughout trying to keep things fresh lyrically and musically.

Anticipated sonic highpoints, however, tend to stay restrained, seldom delivering when expected. “Ten Million’s” bare-bones accompaniment deserves better treatment while “Over It (feat. Donna Missal)” keeps Missal’s vocal prowess lost in the mix when needed the most, buried underneath big beats doubled with over-compressed production vocals.

Matthew West – ‘All In’ 💿💿💿💿

Courtesy Sparrow Records

Contemporary Christian musician Matthew West has graced fans with his seventh studio compilation, “All In.” The veteran Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) singer-songwriter delivers a new 14-track offering since his last studio project, 2015’s “Live Forever.”

West’s positive and uplifting message is reflected within every track of the new record. Christian ideology and his spiritual belief pervade each song, shining new light on an ageless story.

The eponymous lead track begins the worship set telling us there are no partial actions or half ways into believing within the spirit of life as West anthemically proclaims, “I’m going all in / Headfirst into the deep end / I hear you calling / And this time the fear won’t win.”

Narrative tracks that bring his message home are “Broken Things,” “The Sound of a Life Changing,” “Something Greater” and “Dream Again.”

“All In” may be West’s best work to date, but doesn’t break out into new directions sonically and musically. It retains the Nashville contemporary Christian production formula incorporating a sound set found on many other records by his peers in the genre. Positive and uplifting as it may be, it has moments where it could have broke the cookie-cutter mold of CCM today.

Rating System:

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