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Third Eye Blind - Screamer Music Album Reviews

Third Eye Blind - Screamer Music Album Reviews On the band’s sixth album, frontman Stephan Jenkins Peter Pans his way through an improbably infectious set of would-be hits.
If he had less ambition and a lower tolerance for failure, Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins could be sipping Mai Tais with Mark McGrath on the deck of a ’90s rock cruise right now, enjoying a life of royalty checks and low expectations. Instead, he’s carried on as if any year might be the one where his group finally reclaims its former glory. Everything he does is a long-shot bid for relevance: He covers Bon Iver, records bold political statements, and generally does the last thing we ask from the second-tier figures of alt-rock’s yesteryear: He tries.

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Young M.A - Herstory in the Making Music Album Reviews

The New York rapper’s highly anticipated debut album is another big, long flex from one of the most skilled rappers to emerge in the last five years.

In the immediate wake of the viral 2016 hit “OOOUUU,” Young M.A was quickly projected to be a trailblazer for modern New York City rap, pegged as a rejuvenator for quintessential New York City rap, and preordained as the city’s best pure rapper in what had felt like ages. She was the hottest rapper of the moment, maybe the most promising hometown prospect since 50 Cent, and even he was impressed.


Usually, all stories of viral rap success play out in the same way—a label swoops in after a bidding war, new music is released posthaste, and most of it sounds dangerously close to the viral hit itself. But something funny happened with M.A: She never signed with a major, she held off on rushing out an album, and she retreated deeper into her notepad, not once trying to recreate her signature song. Without much of an attempt to capitalize on her virality, the hype subsided, and many wrote Young M.A off as a flash in the pan. In a twist, in the years since, she has quietly lived up to everything unfairly foisted upon her.

Young M.A isn’t just one of the best rappers in her city, she’s one of the best anywhere. She has spent her free moments, during on-air appearances or hijacking other rapper’s songs, putting beats through the torture rack until she’s cracked them. Though a longtime master of the form, her freestyles have become epics. Her singles have become confessionals. In these structureless spaces, she’s unleashed. Her verses feel undiluted and ceaseless; she seems inexhaustible, like she could rap forever. Herstory in the Making, her long-awaited debut album, was supposed to be a punctuation mark. It was meant to put a cap on this arc, to give shape to her untreated verses and her story. Instead, it is merely another flex, another display of her competence and skill. She runs the gauntlet and comes out largely unscathed.

A name like Herstory in the Making implies biography and Young M.A has confirmed as much in interviews. She always seems to be setting the record straight in her raps, but these aren’t her memoirs. In an attempt to offer all of herself, she ends up providing only glimpses, never settling long enough to divulge much. Despite that, she finds enough balance to provide a convincing self-portrait. There is plenty of the tough M.A—the raw M.A—to satiate fans of her bruiser raps, especially on bum-rushing songs like “No Mercy” and “Bleed,” but there is vulnerability elsewhere. The NY Bangers-produced “Sober Thoughts” reveals struggles with depression and substance abuse in the aftermath of her celebrity. When she lets her guard down, she grows as a storyteller.

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The most glaring illustration of this is “No Love,” on which Young M.A wrestles with her brother’s murder and her own proximity to street life. As the song goes on, she keeps reliving his death in different contexts, feeling its impact in different ways. It is some of her most centered writing. “I seen my brother go from human to Casper/From a bed to a casket/Tryna move on, but it’s like my life goin’ backwards,” she remembers, trapped in a nightmare. There’s no love in the streets so she finds it elsewhere—down a bottle of Hennessey, in her mother, and in God. She always raps with clarity, but when she writes with purpose her songs become even more affecting. Sometimes, the writing is so crisp that it becomes like journaling in its detail and narrative focus. “My paychecks use to be a pair of Jordans/And I know I can’t afford ’em, but I went ahead and bought ’em/Then I quit, started slangin’, spent my money on recordin’/Yeah, the studio was small, but man, that shit made me a fortune,” she raps on “Car Confessions,” as clear a rendering of converting aspiration into inspiration as you’ll ever hear.

There is such a natural finesse and composure to M.A’s rapping that it can, at times, seem almost casual. But it’s easy to underestimate what’s happening on Herstory in the Making because she performs a rap clinic for nearly 70 minutes without exerting much energy. While the album may not be the resounding statement of self the title makes it out to be, it is a fine endorsement of everything that those who have ignored her have been missing. If nothing else, Herstory in the Making is an exhibition of Young M.A’s ability to rap proficiently over anything. She bobs her way through the muted, glowing Mike Zombie-produced “BIG” and then lurches through Zaytoven’s trap gospel on “Kold World” like Peak Gucci Mane. She slides off the “My Hitta” synths with singsong flows. With each song on her debut, Young M.A is reasserting her place in rap.


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