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The Kid LAROI Stumbles A Bit on “Over You”

By Brad Kramer

The Kid LAROI showed a great deal of potential with his debut mixtape, F*** LOVE. Juvenile name and amateur singing aside, this Australian Juice WRLD protigé showcased a great ear for melody and some passionate performances. He quickly outdid himself with a deluxe edition called “SAVAGE,”a re-release with seven new tracks of supremely catchy blends of rap, pop and acoustic ballads. But unfortunately, the well has really dried up for LAROI with this third installment in the F*** LOVE series, “Over You.” 

If LAROI has improved on anything this go round, it’s his singing and production. Looking back on his first two installments of the F*** LOVE series, there were some vocals LAROI attempted that sounded strained. But LAROI doesn’t sound like he’s straining to hit his notes anymore. He’s ascended to pop-star status and the quality of his singing rose with him.

These are also some of the poppiest beats LAROI has ever touched. From sobering piano balladry on the title track to driving dance-pop on “Stay” to warm RnB samples on “Still Chose You,” LAROI is pushing himself outside of his comfort zone. There’s not a single guitar-based emo-rap beat on this entire project, which is refreshing considering how comfortable he got with that sound on “SAVAGE.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see such a diverse feature list as well. LAROI having guest spots with Machine Gun Kelly, Marshmello and Miley Cyrus in the past made me think he was going to go full pop and forgo his talents as a rapper. But pop stars like Justin Bieber stand side-by-side on this project with Chicago rap veterans like G Herbo and Lil Durk. I didn’t expect to see LAROI palling around with them, but the track they wind up on is great, and one of the most vulnerable moments on the album. Polo G and Stunna Gambino also shined on “Not Sober.” The two reminisce to when they were broke and struggling which fits right in with LAROI’s chorus about drinking just to get away from it all. 

So LAROI stepped out of the emo-rap box he was dangerously close to being trapped in—that’s great, but there’s just one problem. The quality of LAROI’s writing has dropped a great deal. His lyrics aren’t the issue, he always wrote from that “immature teenage boy just trying to find his way” perspective ever since he debuted. It was his melodies that hooked me in, but sadly there’s nothing all that catchy on “Over You.”

Take the title track for example. The passion in this song is electrifying—he wails out during the chorus about how hurt he feels by someone and how he’s finally pushing them away. But during the verses, he sings over this slow moving piano ballad with an awkwardly fast flow. It feels like he’s still rapping over a driving guitar beat from the “SAVAGE” days. 

This is a problem for almost all of the album. Too often LAROI finds himself over a new instrumental palette, but approaches these beats in the same ways he did on his last two projects. It makes these songs sound clunky, and it’s why this album has barely any catchy elements or replay value for me. “Stay,” “Not Sober,” and “Same Energy” are the only songs where LAROI sounds focused, and they’re the only songs I’d ever think of going back to.

Hopefully the attempts at new styles, more controlled singing, and even greater passion, are a forecast of nothing but good things for LAROI’s future. But, as of right now, it’s clear he’s got some work to do before he perfects a more polished, pop-centric sound. LAROI is headed in the right direction and “Over You” is just a small glimpse of what might be a path to a great career.

Favorite Tracks: “Stay,” “Not Sober”

Rating: 4/10

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Japanese Breakfast @ Union Transfer

Union Transfer x 8/7/21

Photos by Joe Morales for WRSU-FM

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Pop Smoke’s Team Delivers a Thrown-Together Posthumous Album with Faith

By Brad Kramer

Reviewing a posthumous album is never an easy task. With the release of Pop Smoke’s 2nd posthumous album Faith, objectively looking at this piece of work, much different from his original musical plan, becomes a lot harder to do. His leftover material was mismanaged and it makes for an album that’s well crafted, but not well curated. A handful of highlights are drowned out by baffling production choices and mediocre cuts where Pop barely appears, which makes this album so much more disappointing knowing what could’ve been. 

Faith does, at the very least, hit the ground running. A quick spoken word piece by Pop’s mom transitions well into “More Time,” a sorrowful, piano-backed ballad. Pop starts the song with an effortless croon calling for his partners to be freed from jail, then explodes into one of his trademark verses with all the threatening lyrics, booming vocals and catchy flows he was known for. While the beat was changed from what Pop originally rapped over, this new production is actually something I can commend Faith on. Many tracks take Pop into a bunch of new directions which sound amazing and surprisingly natural, most of the time. 

While Pop Smoke’s team have drastically changed the production from what he wanted, most of these new beats still hit just as hard as anything else Pop would’ve used. “Tell The Vision” combines driving brass with fast drums and children’s choir interludes—this in addition to Pop’s lyrics about finally succeeding make this one of the most anthemic songs on the project. “Manslaughter,” just from the beat alone, is an experience. Steady drums and grand layers of heavenly pitched-up vocals make this song just as much of a banger as it is a tear-jerker. Pop Smoke’s hook and verse are fine and Rick Ross fits in perfectly, but The-Dream’s performance blew me away. The emotion with which he delivers his lyrics truly elevates the song. He sings with such passion in the outro of the song, openly ranting with his thoughts on life after Pop’s death; it’s magnificent.

“Bout A Million ” pairs a stone cold, guitar-backed drill beat with equally heartless verses from Pop and 21 Savage. Both of their deliveries are menacing in the exact opposite way—Pop stomping through your speakers with his rumbling voice while 21 Savage’s unbothered muttering makes his wicked lyrics only more spine-tingling—which makes 21 the perfect feature. 

There’s a couple other highlights like “Brush Em” (a throwback from 2018), “Woo Baby,” a buttery-smooth R&B jam with Chris Brown, “What’s Crackin” with Takeoff from Migos (which is essentially a Migos song done by Pop Smoke which goes over well) and a groovy disco track with Dua Lipa called “Demeanor.”

But outside of these songs, the rest of Faith is filled with forgettable tracks. Most of them have questionable guest features simply because Pop was never able to finish the tracks.  The album contains some mind-boggling production choices that would make anyone seriously question who was in charge of curating this album. The biggest offender is “Top Shotta,” a long-anticipated fan favorite turned disappointment. People were hyped to hear this song after a snippet of Pop snapping over a threatening beat came out back in January of this year. Fast forward to release day and this song instead has one of the dinkiest tropical island beats I’ve ever heard and 3 guests which bog this song down. “Woo Baby Interlude” is a 29-second acapella and a waste of a hook that was supposed to go to Pop’s friend Fivio Foreign for his song “Tiger.” Fans were clamoring for that song, so why they removed Pop’s hook to use as an interlude is something I’ll never understand.

My biggest issue with this album is that aside from those two songs, most of it is perfectly fine. It’s not Pop’s best material but I’m not going to fault him for that—he’s dead, he can’t fix it. The new beats are mostly great and none of the features gave a bad performance. But what this album needed was better curation—choosing features Pop knew and worked with and changing the album from 20 tracks to maybe 14 at most would’ve been a great place to start. If this were to have happened, Faith could’ve actually achieved the potential it had. But Pop’s camp took the easy way out, threw the whole cutting room floor on the album, and added features to fill in the empty spaces he no longer could, sometimes with no regard to what he originally wanted. A good album shouldn’t leave me with so many questions: why were Pop’s friends kicked off of “Manslaughter,” “Tell The Vision,” and “Top Shotta”; why was the terrible beat on “Top Shotta” approved; why is Dua Lipa the feature on “Demeanor” when Pop originally asked for Bruno Mars? Little things like this add up and make it clear that the priority here was releasing an album that is just passable, not one that does Pop Smoke justice. It would’ve been entirely possible to make a great 2nd posthumous album with what Pop left over. Not enough care was taken to do that though, and Faith suffers immensely as a result. 

Favorite Tracks: “Manslaughter,” “Brush Em’,” “Bout A Million,” “Spoiled,” “More Time”

Rating: 6/10

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RU Prof. Berke reminisces on time in sports media, covering Olympic games

Professor Art Berke, Associate Director of the Global Sports Business MS Program at Rutgers University, and former Vice President of Communications at Sports Illustrated recently chatted with Ariel Duncan on “WRSU Crew” about his memorable experiences working in sports media, including the Olympic games.

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RU Prof. Hogshead-Makar talks to WRSU Crew about her career, from winning Olympic gold in the pool to the Global Sports Business classroom

Three-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time Olympic medalist in women’s swimming Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D., Oly joined the WRSU Crew this week, to talk about her wide and varied career, from representing Team USA to becoming a professor at the Global Sports Business MS Program at Rutgers University. There, she teaches an array of topics from Title IX compliance, equal pay, sexual abuse and transgender inclusion in sport. Nancy discusses her advocacy work to protect girls and women in sport, and empowering Olympic, Paralympic and amateur athletes through established new laws. IN her conversation with Ariel Duncan, she talks specifically about her efforts to champion Team USA Gymnastics as an expert retained on the Larry Nassar case where she was asked to offer insight for the case to the jury. To learn more about Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D., Oly, please visit championwomen.org.

To hear the interview, click below:


Did you miss WRSU’s Pride Month coverage? Find it all here!

WRSU marked Pride Month 2021 with a special series of programs called “RU Proud” hosted by Program Director Ariel Duncan, featuring music, commentary and interviews. Ariel’s insightful conversations could be heard throughout the weekly episodes.

But if you missed them, have no fear! We’ve included them in this single, handy-dandy, easy-to-use, convenient post:

Ariel Duncan chats with Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino.

Ariel Duncan talks with Reverend Robert Grant Mansfield of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Maplewood, NJ.

Ariel Duncan speaks with Lindsay Jeffers, Assistant Director of Programming at the Rutgers Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities, as well as Director Keywuan Caulk, and Darnell Thompson.

WRSU Interview w/ Sydney McLaughlin

Sydney McLaughlin stops by The WRSU Crew to talk with Ariel Duncan for an exclusive interview before making her way to the U.S Track & Field Olympic Trials at the newly renovated Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon with sights set for this summer’s 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. McLaughlin speaks about her Jersey roots, preparedness for the main event, and her journey towards her second Olympic Games opportunity. The Track & Field Olympic Trials is broadcasted on NBC- and are available to stream on Peacock, NBCOlympics.com, and the NBC Sports app.

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Talia Stewart Interview with WRSU

WRSU’s Music Director, Emily Teubner, sat down with dark-pop artist Talia Stewart! They chatted all things heartbreak, hair, music video directing… but you are definitely going to want to watch the interview for all the deets.

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Hand Habits Interview with WRSU

WRSU Video Director Danielle Ciampaglia sat down to chat with Meg of Hand Habits about feeling connected to yourself, working with friends, and what it means to be genuine. Hand Habits just released their 2021 EP, dirt. If you want to listen to some of Meg’s recommendations for required listening, you can go here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2vX…

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Dreamer Boy’s All The Ways We Are Together – Album Review

Zach Taylor, known professionally as Dreamer Boy, finished writing his sophomore album set to release on Earth Day, April 22, just as the pandemic reshaped life as we knew it. The pandemic has allowed 23-year-old, Nashville-based musician Zach Taylor to expand the meaning of his All The Ways We Are Together upon what he thought it was. I had the opportunity to take part in a Zoom call with Taylor where he talked about the album and what inspired it.

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