First Impression Fridays this week is postponed due to a severe lack of anything that interests me enough to write about it. The only thing that I knew I’d actually enjoy is the release of Anderson .Paak’s Ventura instrumentals, and that’s basically cheating because the full songs were already so good.

Consequently, I have written about 10 tracks (in no particular order) that motivate me to do better in life. However, if I had made a list of 10 tin-pot disney tunes that would send Eminem to number one and have white soccer-moms everywhere cheering I could never forgive myself. Whether that be lavish tracks making me dream of having millions in the bank or tracks that make me want to get up in the morning and groove in the shower, it’s all motivation. Hopefully you can relate to some of the songs on this list, and if not then check some of them out and let me know if they have the same effect on you!

Wiley – Bring Them All / Holy Grime (feat. Devlin)

If I was ever going to commit a frenzied murder, this would be the song in my head or ears while it was happening. The beat is a crazed animal sprinting towards its victim in a coliseum of choral vocals and militaristic drums. The flows from both Wiley and Devlin are effortless; almost lathering the music in shampoo to cleanse this filth. It’s a braggadocious bar-fest that leaves the listener out of breath in just over three minutes.

“I’ve already made a scene, I already live a dream
And the king’s road’s lonely, you can’t go with him”

Meek Mill – Dreams and Nightmares (Intro)

A highly underappreciated part of the modern day album is the introduction. So many projects are collections of songs that very little ever gets set up by a structured introductory track. On this, Meek Mill provides the detailed idea of a dichotomy between dreams and nightmares and that everything you wish for isn’t necessarily going to turn out positively. The first half is set over simple piano chords and luscious strings, lulling you into a false sense of security before horns and demonic choral vocals push through with Mill’s vocals becoming strained. It’s a short story of warning without being full of words and depth.

“I used to pray for times like this, to rhyme like this
So I had to grind like that to shine like this”

JID – 151 Rum

This is more of a simple song to analyse. Much like Wiley and Devlin, this is a bar-fest with a freestyle effect. The beat features a vocal loop which sound like someone being choked with cellophane as their toenails are removed. Then the rumbling drums drop and make you want to kick a cyclist from riding on the pavement. If you couldn’t tell, this song makes me a little bit angry, but I love it. Full stank face.

“Intimate, infinite rhymes, give me the baton
A ticking, ticking time bomb, takin’ the finish line”

Brother Ali – Pen to Paper (feat. Amir Sulaiman)

Another intro track, this a more biographical one featuring background record scratches, lightly jabbed piano chords and an overwhelming low horn of some kind. Brother Ali takes you through him growing up and how he got into hip-hop, the death of his parents and his stress and eventual mental health struggles. The passion flows through his vocal chords as the listener realises that hip-hop is his escape. The track culminates in a vocal gun-shot and is a true exercise in passion.

“The entire landscape of that blank page was mine
Created space to climb inside, escape the crazy times”

Stormzy – Big For Your Boots

One of the most popular tracks on the list, Stormzy delivers “Big For Your Boots” in such a way where you can hear him turning his nose up at doubters. The tongue-in-cheek chorus could be read as him telling others that they’re not worthy or as others having said this to him in the past and him now making fun of it. Sonically, the track features some driving drums, more choral vocals (seeing a pattern yet?) as well as a chipmunked vocal. This is the kind of song where it seems as if the artist barely takes a breath as they have too much to get off their chest in the allotted time.

“Don’t care who you know from my block
You’re not Al Capone, you’ll get boxed
They can take my car and my creps
I’ll still do the road in my socks”

Timbaland – Give It To Me (feat. Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake)

Not much will ever get me to dance on the account of me being a terrible dad-dancer, but this track gets me a big step closer. Boy, does Timbaland know how to create a groove. Arguably the best producer when it comes to percussion and the layering of unique-sounding drum patterns, he brings in two sultry voices of Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake to compliment the track and it creates a hit. However, to me, I could just have the drum track playing in the background of my entire life so I could walk down the street grooving away.

Seen you try switch it up, but girl, you ain’t that dope
I’m the Wonder Woman, let me go get my rope

Rick Ross – I’m Not a Star

When you’re feeling broke worthless and overall thinking that life could really be better, put this track on, slap some sunglasses on and close your eyes. Let yourself be whisked away to a Miami beach with tanned bodies all around you. Luxurious yachts fill the horizon and a Lamborghini is doing really quiet, tidy donuts in the sand. Nod your head, put up your imaginary money-phone and sink back into the dream.

I spent a milly on the car, it come alive
Never feed it after dark, gotta treat it like a Gremlin
It’s a multi-million dollar motherfucker in it

Justin Timberlake – My Love (feat. T.I.)

Another true Timbaland special. Sure, it sounds a little dated in today’s musical climate with the synth lead but if you aren’t nodding your head like a chicken with the groove then I don’t know if this whole music thing is really for you. Add Timbaland’s subtle beatboxing and JT’s sweet falsetto lullabies into the mix and you have an excellent love song. Even with the painfully obvious verse, chorus, verse, chorus, rap feature preset, T.I. flows at his smooth best and it can’t help but motivate me that something will go right when I hear this song.

Now If I wrote you a love note
And made you smile at every word I wrote (What would you do?)

Jay Rock – Code Red

If I ever wanted to become the gang-banging type, this song would be playing 24/7. It’s another case of a simple piano melody over some of the hardest drums and one of the tastiest bass guitar licks I’ve ever known. After seeing this album getting some traction on the blogs in 2011 and knowing it was in some way connected with a blossoming Kendrick Lamar, I was interested to check it out; this was the first track I fell in love with. Jay Rock’s gruff, brassy voice feels like the smoothest, toughest gravel you can imagine – essentially like the crunchiest smooth peanut butter. Tracks like this make me want to rent an old low-rider and sit on the corner in Los Angeles feeling cool.

“It’s a struggle everyday, man, you know how this shit goes
But my demeanor’ll never switch, cherry red beamer
Gangbanged the fuck out, red rag around the nina”

Jay-Z – Success (feat. Nas)

Obviously, when you get two of the greatest MC’s of all time on a track, it’s very hard to miss. However, in terms of motivation, this track is like a combination of Mad Men, Scarface and The Godfather. It’s all about the power and as soon as the raw, distorted organ melody drops, elements of greed, passion and lust take over. The entire track, verses and instrumental, feels triumphant and gives the listener a feeling of victory by proxy.

“I used to give a shit, now I don’t give a shit more
Truth be told I had more fun when I was piss-poor
I’m pissed off, and this what success is all about?”

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