ANTHM Joy & Pain (AMG)
After performing over other people’s beats on When We Were Kings, it’s only right that the Duke University grad does the same over original production on his Joy & Pain EP. ANTHM creates something unique on this project; he’s able to make party songs sound introspective as evidenced on the groovy “God of Joy.” But where he’s most comfortable is when he gets reflective over the somber standout track, “Be Still.” He may still be a new jack, but ANTHM has the talent and poise of a seasoned veteran. ★★★☆☆
XV Popular Culture (Def Jam)
With his major label debut on hold, Kansas’ XV opts to treat fans with 17 new songs courtesy of his Popular Culture mixtape. It cleverly weaves pop-culture references with witty rhymes and impressive production. Popular Culture is like a musical journey through the last 30 years of television. From the Inception theme sample employed on aptly titled “The Kick” to the Willy Wonka-inspired “Wonkavator” XV’s latest is stimulating for those who tire of drippy emo-rap and strip club anthems. ★★★★☆
Maybach Music Group Self Made Vol. 2 (Warner Music Group)
It’s strange that Self Made Vol. 2 starts off with an 8-minute romp called “Power Circle” that gets destroyed by Kendrick Lamar, who is not in the MMG power circle. It starts a theme that carries through the solid second installment of Maybach Music Group’s compilation album: Although Rick Ross and his cohorts are strong in their own right, it’s the outsiders who shine brightest. Nas steals the show on “This Thing of Ours,” Nipsey Hussle owns “Fountain of Youth” and Bun B embarrasses Gunplay on “Black on Black.” MMG’s newcomers are uneven as Ohio’s Stalley fits right in, but former B2K member Omarion’s tiny voice can’t hold up alongside the heavy hitters. All in all, Vol. 2 is a patchy affair. ★★★☆☆
What albums are on Andreas’ radar …
AUG. 7: Kanye West and his merry band of stylish misfit G.O.O.D. Music rappers will drop the Cruel Summer soundtrack and short film. Can you say excited? Excited I am! Just as long as Kim Kardashian isn’t rapping alongside West, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this will be a great album. AUG. 14: After making guest appearances on every-rapper-known-to-man’s songs, 2 Chainz will finally prove if he can stand on his own two with Based On A T.R.U. Story. Something tells me he’ll have a ton of guests. AUG. 28: Wiz Khalifa gets to make up for his false-start album Rolling Papers with O.N.I.F.C. Wait, I’m not the only one that wasn’t impressed with that album, right? OK, good.