With a little time to kill before the next concert review, it’s time to review another mixtape! Nova Major is a new artist from the Toronto area signed to Track House Entertainment, here with his debut mixtape, Whatever It…[TAKES]. You can download and/or stream the mixtape for free here, or check out the songs (with lower audio quality) on Youtube here. Along with emcee/producer Danny Knight, Nova is part of a group called Otherwise Known, whose debut album called After Hours is set to be released before the year is over. Nova’s solo mixtape serves as a warm up for the album.
While my last mixtape review was a collaboration with Wayne Maye (whose blog you can check out here), we’ve decided to collaborate again and also bring our friend Matt, who runs another hip-hop blog called The Mathias Doctrine. Both of these guys have been discussing hip-hop for years and you can read more about them on their respective blog sites. Just like last time, we’ll go through each track one by one in a conversation format. Let’s get into it!
SYpher: First off, it should be noted that all the beats on this mixtape are taken from other artists’ songs. This one is from an Action Bronson track of the same name.
Matt: Gotcha, it sounds like a Bronson beat for sure. I already like this guy’s delivery.
S: Yea I’m digging the flow, it’s a good start.
Wayne: Good start indeed.
M: You know I’m a flow guy, so that’s one of the areas I criticize the harshest. [SYpher Sidenote: Matt is the biggest Tech N9ne fan I know]. He sounds mad smooth though. Moonstruck was a dope little freestyle, on to “Burn”.
M: Still good, trying to figure out who his flow/voice reminds me of. I like this beat.
W: He’s riding Havoc’s beat nicely.
S: Yea, it’s from the Mobb Deep track by the same name. I’d say flowing smoothly over a beat is probably Nova’s biggest strength.
M: Oh, duh. I can’t believe I didn’t catch that until you said it.
S: I can’t believe it either, WTF (lol)
M: Haha sorry n shit…
S: Speaking of “WTF”, this next song though…
W: “Burn” was solid.
3. Talk Dirty (feat. Sass D)
W: Oh man, a few seconds in and this one sounds like something we would hear on the radio today.
S: Yea man, I’m not sure about your area but the original version of this song has been all over the radio over here the past few months.
W: Wow, lol.
M: Remixing Jason Derulo isn’t usually something I condone…haha.
W: It’s decent, but nothing special. Nothing I haven’t heard done before.
S: I mean if you’re a fan of the original, I don’t think there’s any reason not to like this remix too, but I can’t say I’m a fan of either song. I feel like this is here just to grab the radio fans’ attention.
M: I kind of like the jazzy beat of this song…always felt it was wasted on Derulo though. Sass D sounds ok on the second verse; lyrics are nothing special but it might just be the subject matter.
S: Yep, typical club hit.
4. Devil Is A Lie (feat. Danny Knight)
S: So this is originally a Rick Ross song?
W: I believe so (that clown, lol).
M: You already know I love the Devil Is A Lie beat. If there’s one thing Rick Ross does well, it’s pick fire beats. Nova complements it well too.
S: I don’t remember the original, but I like how Nova is flowing on this.
W: Same here, he does better than Ross I feel.
S: Definitely a better flow than Rick Ross, I don’t remember ever being impressed by any Rick Ross flows.
M: Is Danny Knight a rapper or the guy singing the hook?
S: Both, but on this song he just does the hook. You’ll get to hear him rap later on. He also does most of the mixing and mastering. [SYpher Sidenote: producer Clockwork has some additional vocals in the hook on this song][UPDATE: Nova actually did a lot of the mixing & mastering for this project, my mistake]
M: Gotcha…The hook was just there. It was whatever.
S: Still, it has to be better than what Rick Ross did with this beat.
S: I don’t know the original version of this song either. Nova is flowing well as usual though.
M: I’m not really liking the punches on this “Shabba” joint much. That double time part goes in though
S: Yea, I like how the flow gets gradually faster on this one.
W: Good point.
6. Picasso Baby
W: Oh I KNOW whose beat this is, lol.
S: Haha yea, we should all.
W: Nova knows how to ride these beats.
M: Yep, sounding good on this one. He sounds comfortable on this beat. The more traditional hip hop beats are the ones he shines on.
S: Yea, I thought the verse started off a little average but it progressively got better. And then when the beat changes…
M: Oh word, he’s killing this part!
W: You’re right, he closes this on a strong note.
S: Makes you wish Jay came harder (pause) on the original
M: No kidding though.
7. Tunnel Vision
S: So this is obviously the ladies’ song on the mixtape.
W: I noticed that when it started, lol.
M: Another dope flow on this “Tunnel Vision” joint.
S: Yea, I usually get bored with girly type songs like this, but the fast flow keeps me drawn in.
W: Cosign, I’m getting tired of girly songs too.
S: This is what Justin Timberlake should’ve done with the track, get a dope emcee to kill at least one verse.
M: Yeah man, JT needs to call him up for the remix…haha. Timbaland has a unique way of making beats you can sound just as at home on whether rapping or singing.
S: This was a great beat selection by Nova, I think it’s the most likely track on the mixtape to blow up because he brought something completely different to the song.
8. The Format (feat. SYpher)
S: “The Format”, a classic DJ Premier beat. So… The guest feature on this track is wack as f***.
M: I was gonna say… This SYpher dude SUCKS I heard! Haha, nah man kill it, let’s hear it.
S: I like how Nova keeps that same “ooo – ang” rhyme going throughout both of his verses. [SYpher Sidenote: I will not review my own work, but I told Matt & Wayne to be completely honest about it]
M: This sounds good. Your verse could’ve been a bit more dynamic, but I dug it.
W: Nova’s good, and after listening to this again, SY’s verse could’ve been a bit more energetic, but it wasn’t bad.
M: I remember the early stuff I heard from you wasn’t mixed. It sounds good when it’s mixed and mastered.
S: Respects, that’s all Danny Knight’s work, speaking of whom…
9. All Me (feat. Danny Knight & Sass D)
S: Danny kills this first verse.
M: I definitely like deep-voiced rappers…no homo no homo no homo. Dude is NICE!
W: He’s killing this shit! I like this beat, but I’m not a Drake fan as you know.
S: Yep, we live near Toronto so of course there had to be at least one Drake track on here. What do you guys think of the hook?
W: It’s interesting, lol.
M: The hook is okay. I haven’t been in love with Nova’s hooks so far but they don’t ruin the songs by any means, so they work. He can spit though, for sure.
S: It’s the same melody Drake sings, I’m not quite sure these guys are hitting the notes perfectly though…
W: They did the best with what they were working with I think, but I see what you’re saying though.
M: Sass D definitely sounds better in a true rap element rather than that pop/club track. His vocal presence is just okay but I like his flow here. Overall it’s a dope track, I really dig Danny Knight’s verse.
W: This was good, better than the original song.
10. They Ain’t Ready (feat. Danny Knight)
M: The big finale.
S: Yep, this might be my favourite track on here. Or at least I think it’s the most complete track with a dope, original hook and dope verses.
M: Yep, agreed. I actually like this hook too.
W: I’m liking this track, it’s dope.
S: I think the hook on this track might actually be better than the original Ruff Ryders/Timbaland one.
M: I would have to agree. I found myself wishing the last verse would be Danny, but for sequencing’s sake I can understand why Nova went for dolo on the verses on the finale.
S: Yea man don’t worry, this mixtape is just a warm up for the upcoming Otherwise Known album. You’ll get to hear more Nova-Knight collaborations soon.
Wayne: “Moonstruck” and “Burn” were good tracks to start with, as Nova kicked some dope freestyles over the Action Bronson and Mobb Deep instrumentals. The apply-titled “Talk Dirty” sounds like a typical radio track, from the beat to the hook to the lyrics. Nothing more or less. “The Devil Is A Lie” features a brief but nice flow by Nova, and he worked it better than Rick Ross did in my view. The same can be said for “Shabba”, which finds Nova flowing nicely over the A$AP Ferg track. “Picasso Baby” started off a bit average, but closes on a strong note. The ladies should like “Tunnel Vision”, which covers the same territory as “Talk Dirty” but does it better. Rounding out the rest of the mixtape are dope “coverage freestyles” with “The Format”, “All Me” and “They Ain’t Ready”. Overall, it’s a good mixtape and I hope to hear more from them. Good job.
Matt: This was definitely a good listen, and I’d be interested to hear Nova Major on original beats and whatnot. I would say the one area for improvement I would note is the hooks, but it is just a mixtape so the hooks are incidental anyway. No point in judging them too harshly. I’d rank this is as a 3.5 out of 5; trim the Derulo and Shabba tracks and I’d give it a 4. If it was a longer mixtape then 2 tracks wouldn’t hurt it much, but in this case that’s one fifth of the tape.
SYpher: Overall this is a solid mixtape to warm people up for more music from Nova Major and Otherwise Known. It goes by really fast, clocking in at about 26 minutes in total, which makes it ideal for short-distance driving. For the most part, the beats and flows sound good and the rhymes are on point. Even with the short length, Nova is able to bring something for most different types of hip-hop fans; with raw freestyles, remixes of radio hits, traditionally-structured hip-hop bangers, and fresh deliveries over well-known beats. Stay on the lookout for After Hours, which should be a great meal if this was just an appetizer.
My Joint (other than “The Format”):