Silk Noise Reflex: James Tillman 

Does everything feel like it’s going to shit? Does your life suck right now? Do you feel like no matter how hard you try it isn’t getting any better and you just can’t catch a break?

James Tillman got you. Take this sonic vacation with him. Escape in 4/4 into his silky world of dreamy electro-acoustic nu-jazz. Urban Lounge Music for the depressed and the stressed.

It’s so titular: Silk Noise Reflex. Silky and noisy in the finest ways; a reflex reaction of his emotions, the way one would normally react to what the world has to throw at you. Mellow and breakbeat. His falsetto is sweet and he sprinkles his percussions the way one would sprinkle salt, sparse but present. 

The moral lesson of each track can be summed up in a sentence. For example:

‘Rat Race’ = Slow down.
‘Death of a Star’ = sorry we couldn’t be together it’s no one’s fault.
‘Ms. Urbane’ = let it go.
‘Ms. Malaise’ = you make me happy
‘Human behavior’ = who are you to feel this way? Things happen to everyone everyday. No one’s feelings matter more.
‘Self Portrait of a New Yorker’ = why am I such a loner?
‘Tabloid theory’ = why am I still not happy?
‘Missed encounters’ = I just want to meet up and spend time with you

At night, the stars like fairy lights against the midnight blue backdrop. Drink wine and forget your woes, James will help you. 

Rated: 3.7 / 5

Finding clarity: Janice Iche

Floabs: Who do you think you are, Janice Iche?

Janice Iche: I think if there’s just one word that would describe me: it’s artist. Growing up and getting older, I’m using my brain more than I was and being more conscious and present. I’m learning many lessons, finally seeing the reason why things have been the way they’ve been since I was young, and there’s a reason I’m like this because I just have to be like this, y’know? By like this I mean-

Janice Iche-

Yeah.

Who do you want to be?

An artist, and I’m happy about this. I’m happy because everything I do is now productive in one way or another and it contributes to every piece of art that I want to make. I realize that I’m not just a musician, I’m so much more there’s so much more that I want to do and now I’m realizing why I’ve been wanting to do all those things and that makes it feel even more special.

WhatsApp Image 2017-08-23 at 1.44.32 PM

Why?

Because every single different art form has its purpose, but they all just merge into one. Growing up, I always felt very singular; it was always just me, especially in my teenage years. I felt different from everyone else, but all those experiences I had when I was by myself contributed to the person that I am today and I think it’s because I’m appreciating the person that I’m becoming. I’m starting to love it and I finally love myself. It’s exciting.

I’m accepting everything that I’ve seen and experienced in my life, and how they make me the person that I am today. It’s a very strong emotion and I’m happy about it. Literally, my heart is racing talking about it!

A friend once told me that I’m an empath because I feel very deeply and I feel other people’s emotions as well, and sometimes you don’t even know whether they’re your own emotions. Most times, they aren’t- because with your own emotions you always have this piece of yourself that you’re able to maintain.

I’m having so much fun in my life right now, discovering all these things and-

Discovering yourself-

Yes, and what I want to do. Everything is clearer. I know exactly the woman that I want to be and I’m actively going for it. It feels amazing.

Sometimes, I wish it would hurry up and get there but I know you’re supposed to enjoy the journey and well, it’s always gonna be a journey.

Why did you start JaniceIcheblog?

I realized that there’s so much that I want to create and share and I needed a platform to do that. Besides my music, everything I write is going to be on the blog. I also realized that I can use my vulnerability as my strength: I’m a very sensitive person and for the longest time, I’ve been having trouble dealing with the emotions that I carry; pretending that I don’t have these emotions when these emotions dictate every single day of my life. So I’ve been figuring out how to use these emotions to my own benefit. Instead of letting them keep me sad, I can turn it around and use them to my own advantage.

First of all, because I hate feeling alone- I want to show other people who also might be feeling alone that we, basically, have no reason to feel alone. Being open with our experiences and being able to share them gives us a sense of community as human beings, because we’re going through human experiences and human emotions but for some reason, everyone’s pretending not to have these emotions and experiences which are such a part of being human and being at this age and being a woman or being a man.

These are things that are common, but then everyone’s pretending like they don’t have these emotions then everyone feels like they’re alone. I don’t understand why that has to be and I don’t like it. I didn’t want to feel alone so I don’t want anyone to feel alone when they’re people out there who feel the same way.

WhatsApp Image 2017-08-23 at 1.44.29 PM

That’s why I started the blog: I wanted to be open, I wanted to be raw, and I wanted to be honest. I want to stop pretending like these things don’t exist- they exist. Why are we still pretending?

And it’s not like pretending is doing us any good. Everyone is depressed because no one is talking about their issues openly and genuinely. I guess I also want to show that genuine people do exist and there really is no need to feel like we’re alone because we’re going through the same thing. I wanted to spread awareness on the importance of being open and how transformative and revolutionary it can be.

Who are your influences?

My influences are black women who are going after their dreams and just being themselves fearlessly: Hannah Faith because she’s a sick dj, Solange, Oroma Elewa, Sza, Lee Litumbe, Yagazie Emezi. These black women who are just doing things and are at a level that I want to get to.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

These same women.

And when I see someone’s work online and you can tell that they’ve put in so much love, effort, dedication and passion. When I see this work, it inspires me and I’m like, “I have to do the same thing. I have to put my all into it.”

Also, all the bad ass bitches near me who really motivate me and inspire me. Alexis Nereah because she has created her own path and she’s living it and it’s working out for her. It just goes to show how if you’re passionate about something and determined, it’s bound to work out.

Darina Anstis. She’s creating her own beauty standards and going with it fearlessly not giving a fuck about what anyone will say and it’s beautiful and she’s beautiful.

Lyra Aoko because she’s a boss ass bitch, simply.

My cousin Mary, who’s another boss ass bitch going after what makes her happy and stable.

My mom too.

WhatsApp Image 2017-08-23 at 1.44.26 PM

 

So what does the future hold for janice iche?

A lot. My music: I’m still writing music. That’s the one form that I feel has to be perfect so I’m really taking my time with it, but the future is going to be me with albums and performing on worldwide stages and at the same time, indulging in other forms of art which I am finding my place in.

Janice Iche is a singer-songwriter, a feminist, and an activist against emotional abuse. You can find out more about her at https://janiceicheblog.wordpress.com 

You can listen to her music at https://soundcloud.com/janiceiche

 

Images by : Adrian Kumli 

Lust For Life: Lana Del Rey

Is there such a thing as wasted love?

Lana del Rey, the Lady of Sadcore, is smiling for the first time in her life and that’s (sort of) the theme of this album. That she can smile when she wants to; that although it may be gloomy most of the time, it’s not always frowny faces and cigarettes. Sometimes it’s sunshine and flowers and that’s okay too.


This newly-flexed smile muscle also comes with features, there really is a first time for everything. Lana gets by with a little help from her friends: The Weeknd, ASAP Rocky and pleasant surprises like Sean Lennon and Stevie Nicks.

In the title track ‘Lust for Life’ featuring the Weeknd and his beautiful harmonies, it could either mean that they’re too good to die this young or that they are ready to die now at the prime of their youth and careers, however they’re not very good people so much to their dismay, their punishment is life.

Or that the only thing keeping them alive is their love, rather- lust, for living. They want it that bad. The song plays out like a suicide pact between lovers. Regardless, it’s sweet.

They say only the good die young
That just ain’t right

‘Cause we’re having too much fun
Too much fun tonight

 

Now, is there such a thing as wasted love? Sure, it might be misguided, ugly, regrettable even- but is it ever purposeless, without reason nor lesson?

Stevie and Lana don’t seem to think so in ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’. A poem; a prayer- for their well of love to never run dry, and to never drown them. Amen.

But when I love him, get a feeling
Something close to like a sugar rush

It runs through me, but is it wasted love?
(Let’s not waste it, love)

In an interview with Pitchfork, she talked about being intimidated by Stevie Nicks and her legendary voice. Stevie called Lana’s breathy voice ‘her little echo’. It wasn’t condescending. On the contrary, Lana nearly fan-girl died.

“…I felt a little more exposed in that moment. But she was like, “That’s you. You just be you.” 

True enough, as soon as Stevie starts singing I can hear that Fleetwood Mac on the record player, warm, calm and honest.

My heart is soft, my past is rough

‘God bless America(and all the beautiful women in it)’ comes complete with patriotic gun fire. God bless ‘Murica but more importantly, bless its beautiful women.

It’s eerie how much Sean Lennon sounds like his father -maybe you’ve heard of him? His name was John, he sang in a little band from Liverpool called The Beatles- in ‘Tomorrow Never Came’. Can voices be hereditary? Do I have the same voice my grandmother had at my age? Or her grandmother? 

It’s sad and wistful: of star-crossed lovers who thought they’d be together someday, one day. But that day never came. What’s even more eerie is that it sounds like it was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. 

She dips her foot into the hip hop universe with two ASAP Rocky features on ‘Groupie Love’ and ‘Summer Bummer’ showing us just how much she isn’t afraid to try new things. This is all becoming too much.

About ‘Coachella – Woodstock in my Mind’, and before you cry blasphemy and sacrilege, listen. Believe it or not, Coachella is the millennial’s solution to not being alive for Woodstock. I feel the FOMO every time someone says 1969, everytime I listen to The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Lana addresses the critics that tore her down after that damning Saturday Night Live Performance, as well as after the release of her previous studio album, Honeymoon. She relishes in her slow mastery of the art of not giving a fuck, and finally starting to enjoy her new life, not as Lizzy but as Lana.

I applaud her attempts at diversity and as heavy as it is, this project does feel generally lighter than most of her previous works. But still, what’s Lana without a little melodrama?

Image: Consequence of Sound

Rated: 3.7 / 5

Relaxer: Alt J 

With every release, Alt J seem like they’re falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole with no wish to return to the surface. I get it. The surface is lame.

True to it’s name, Relaxer is a sedative shot to the veins: Listen. Breathe.

It’s honest and vulnerable and washes over you like gently crashing waves such as in ‘Adeline’ and other times, like ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’, it’s gritty and anarchist and they shout, ‘Fuck you!’ But Alt J are far from nihilistic and random. Every single lyric means something. Even when it means nothing, that in itself means something. 

The general theme of this album is wishful thinking- it’s about loving someone you can’t be with. Lost love. Forbidden love. Unrequited love. Alt J frequently like to revisit this topic of a love that cannot be or one that is doomed to end in disaster. Remember the cinematic story of Gerda Taro and Richard Capa in the intoxicating ‘Taro’ from their debut project An Awesome Wave? They were both killed while documenting war. It was not a happy ending.

In ‘Adeline’, the Tasmanian devil cannot be with Adeline. Personally, I think it’s because he is a marsupial and she is human. Regardless, he is perfectly content with watching her swim under the Kodachrome blue sky. He wishes her well.

Ooh, I wish you well
I wish you well
I wish you well
I wish you well

As I listened to ‘House of the rising sun’, I saw the blazing sun burning a hole against the burnt orange sky, over a creaky house somewhere near the edge of the horizon. Mother cannot be with father. The day of reckoning is close. We shall all pay for our sins. 

Joe tells us what he did every month of last year until his untimely death in December in the song ‘Last Year’. The months pass. Life floats away. 

If I were to sum up this album in a few words:

Fuck you

I’ll do

Anything that I wanna do

Rated: 4.0 / 5 

Music Listened to and Music Felt 

I remember watching a Crank Lucas video on how we listened to music then vs how we listen to it now.

It got me thinking about the music I hear on a regular basis and the music I actually listen to, and what makes the difference. I think the difference is that feeling the music is listening transcended. It’s when the kick drum becomes your heartbeat, the bass mimics the rhythm of your breath. It’s when the hi hats or claps or snares coincide with your blinking eyelids.

In a similar piece we did a while ago on Music Heard and Music Felt, Eric talked about how he marks the passage of time with music. How a song can stir nostalgia for a time in your life when everything was rose gold and purple hued, or when everything was shot to shit.

For example: the humid and rainy month I spent in Kilifi digging up trees and dancing in the dimly lit night with dogs at my feet, watching the sun set over the creek every night and slowly seep into my tent at dusk; the month two tiny ants nearly killed me with anaphylactic shock. That month is marked by ‘One Last Thing‘ by Clams Casino and ‘Mr. Flava‘ by Katchafire.

A couple of days ago, I came home from a short but perspective changing trip to Nairobi, I sat on a balcony with the sun hitting me square in the face and listened to ‘Walking in the Sun‘ by Fink. It’s the kind of hymn that made my Sunday morning all the more spiritual. I felt the ash of his trials in the gravel in his humming. I wiped the sweat from my brow and thanked God for the day, whoever he or she might be. At that moment, as I felt the chapter in my life change, the song wove itself through me, through my skin, tissue and bone. I listened to Fink and felt what he felt, through the lens of my own life.

Even a blind man can tell when he’s walking in the sun.

Meanwhile, in a backyard somewhere in Lavington, as the sun slowly crept away from the city, ‘Wish You Were Here‘ by Pink Floyd strummed its way through the garden and splattered itself across the orange sky. I wanted to speak but I couldn’t, the song had thickened the air, moistened my lips and dried my throat. It spoke for me and said the things I could never say but wished I could, and from the look in his eyes, he must have known this already.

We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year

Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
The same old fears

Wish you were here

Sitting on a cold wooden floor on a pleasant afternoon, Harry Belafonte crooned to Juanita, his ‘Sweetheart from Venezuela‘. But what at first felt like a sweet calypso to a true love quickly became patronizing and misogynistic, at a closer listen. It threw the whole vibe of the song off. I still danced, but with a pinch of salt. I don’t care if its 1961, no señor means no, señor.

And late at night, as the temperature dropped with each passing hour, after everyone had gone to sleep and the night was as silent as could be for a city that never sleeps- ‘Molasses‘ by Hiatus Kaiyote crackled on vinyl, more poignant than ever. Things are a lot more profound at 4am.

I listened: it told me to relish in the present moment. That moment, 4 am under a snug blanket somewhere in the heart of Nairobi, feeling like everything I want and would ever need was within arm’s reach. Throw me your most serene beaches, your kawaii rustic cottages and the most flowery of meadows, there was no where else I would have chosen to be than there. In that moment. 4 am. Snug in love.

As Nai Palm sang, I felt the love flow down my throat like a glass of iced lemon grass tea, soothing any anxiety I had for tomorrow and the general future. Through Hiatus Kaiyote, I learnt about the art of letting go: letting go of control, letting go of attachments that no longer serve me- attachments to things, to people. I learnt to take the moment and enjoy it for what it is at that given space and time. With every note plucked, I felt myself getting lighter; as if a boulder had dropped from my back and I realized I had wings all along, and I could fly.

It could be a compass, rare and so bountiful
It could be the opposing opinion
It could be the point of traction bound to all
It could be the point of letting it go.

I listened to it. I felt it. And it changed my life. I think that’s the difference.

 

An Introduction to NJOMZA 

NJOMZA is sad for you. That’s a double entrendre: sad for you because she feels sorry for you, sad for you because she misses you.
Pronounced nee-yohm-zah. You might recognize her as the sultry female vocals on ‘My Favorite Part’ off Mac Miller’s last project, ‘The Divine Feminine’

Her debut EP, Sad for you is airy and light but heavy at the same time.

She starts it off by declaring war against her feelings in ‘Intro’.

Fuck these emotions, I don’t need them

People switch up like the seasons

The title track, ‘Sad for you’ is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It’s dismissive yet sensitive. It’s recognizing the need to evolve and grow, with or without this other person.

‘Poison’ is simple and minimalist. She equates a toxic relationship to a car crash, to a bombing, to suicide by poison. She pulls herself out because she knows she still has too much to live for.

‘Perfect Fit’ is looking at you with bedroom eyes, slurring its words slightly as it invites you in. It’s 4 am and promises whispered between sweet and salty nothings.

‘Baggage’ feels like the child of Amy Winehouse and Jorja Smith. A sole horn blowing soul, it uses the same jazz elements as those in The Divine Feminine.  It’s when reality hits you and you see a person for what they are instead of what you want them to be.

NJOMZA breathes rhythm and soul, light and darkness, and a sprinkle of personal glitter into this project, and she’s only just getting started.

Rated : 3.8 / 5

The Black Femme Fatale 

When the word ‘savage’ comes up, you probably won’t think of her first. You would probably think of the male bravado rapper, wissa knife tattoo on his forehead and Google image results of mug shots from different angles.

That’s okay. She doesn’t brandish her knife on her forehead, her weapons are concealed but boy, do they cut deep and clean.

It did not start when Beyonce sat us down and calmly explained to us that girls run the world. However, it might have started when Beyonce became Sasha Fierce. No. When Beyonce became Foxy Cleopatra. Or when Missy Elliot and Janet Jackson addressed that ‘Son of a Gun’. Or when En Vogue elaborated that “No. You’re never gonna get it.” .

tumblr_ng9fc4ftff1s2safbo1_500

Whenever it started, whoever it started with- the black femme fatal has been a cultural staple in music for years.

She is not to be confused with the carefree black girl,  The black femme fatale is just as whimsical as she is sinister. It’s Rihanna in ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’. It’s Sza in ‘Love Galore’. Kehlani in ‘Distraction’.

tumblr_op3ndwpkq21viblyvo1_500

The black femme fatale is not to be taken lightly, She is the proverbial woman scorned that hell hath no fury like. She will use and discard you with an angelic smile on her pretty face, with no apology. Do not, I repeat, Do. Not. Cross. Her.

tumblr_nqvipnde5q1u6s61ao3_r1_400

Key features of the archetypal female include:

-Mischief, boredom or hunger.

-Leather or latex.

-Past or present scorn that she emerged from the ashes of like a Phoenix.

-Quentin Tarantino heavy breathing.

Dej Loaf summed it up pretty well back in 2014:

Let a nigga try me, try me
I’m a get his whole mothafuckin’ family
And I ain’t playin wit nobody
Fuck around and I’m a catch a body

The black femme fatale is the female praying mantis devouring her lover post-coitus. She’s emotionally needy and insecure and fiercely independent at the same time. Affectionate and emotionally unavailable. Warm and inviting, cold and cruel. She is the reason hurricanes are named after women.

Here’s a playlist for the next time you’re feeling devious and maybe a bit violent too:

  1. Serena – Dreezy ft. Dej Loaf

2. Son of a Gun – Janet Jackson ft. Missy Elliot

3. Never Gonna Get It– En Vogue

4. Pull up– Abra

5. Distraction – Kehlani

Colours 2: PARTYNEXTDOOR 

Like a gift from the divine, Partynextdoor  has blessed us undeserving mortals with a masterful unannounced release, Colors 2, a sequel to his 2014 EP- Pnd Colours. 

And colour your life it will. This late night themed 4-track EP cuts you like a knife, straight in the middle, all the way down. Murder by music. 

It will feel like your ear drums were massaged by delicate hands. It’s an experience that feels like you are literally entering him, stepping inside the dark seedy alley that is the mind and soul of Jahron B. Music and cigarette smoke wafts out of the back entrances to clubs, a curvy high class escort in a trench coat winks as she saunters past you.

He’s always trying to find the evasive truth with her. Whoever ‘her’ at the time may be.
I’m gonna jump straight to my favorite song on the project,  ‘Low Battery’, and bitch a little about it because I know if this track was Drake’s – and it easily could have been considering Party is his favorite little OVO elf- it would have hit the billboard top 10, seconds after release. Although, I do relish in the pleasure that comes with seeing gold before the others do.

‘Low Battery’ is a thumpy jiggy beat that will have your body involuntarily gyrating. Lyrics wise: It reads like 2 am texts to the person who is about to shatter you and your heart into pieces.

What you tryna do? Are you tryna hurt my ego?
Look you know it’s usually on a hunnid
But babe, right now it’s on a zero

In ‘Rendezvous’, like his thoughts and drums are staggering on whisky, he asks her to stop playing games and fucking say what she wants. He’s not impressed.

Among other tracks is ‘Peace of Mind’ and I can’t help but draw comparisons to Kehlani’s, ‘Piece of Mind’ off her album, Sweetsexysavage.

The first time I ever listened to  Partynextdoor and felt his mood, I swore to be celibate and save my secondary virginity for him. Because that’s what he is, Partynextdoor is not an artist or his songs, Partynextdoor is a mood. There’s a reason #partygetsmewetter.

Let him wine and dine you, light the chocolate scented candles, and sprinkle the rose petals on the sheets. Resistance is futile.

 

(Rated : 4.4 / 5) 

Everybody: Logic

Life. What’s it all about?

In this project, Logic raps from several perspectives. Logic is everybody, everybody is him. We follow Kai and Thomas where they left off last album, on their trek through Paradise, as Logic serves not only as their walking music, but also as their existential reference guide.

Next, we meet Atom, who dies in a car crash at the end of ‘Hallelujah’ and finds himself in purgatory with Neil DeGrasse Tyson God. God informs poor Atom that he’s dead, lets him freak out over that fact a little and then they go in to discuss the meaning of life and existence as we know it. Cue Logic.

Logic confronts the conflict he’s always had with being biracial in a world that’s either white or black. He sees the inequality of it all and he doesn’t understand because these two unequal sides are literally two equal sides of him.

Damn, my skin fair but life’s not

He doesn’t understand why people are so cruel; why they mistreat each other like our differences are irreconcilable. Why can’t we just let people live and do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone?  Why can’t we all just get along and exist together?

The bottom line is love and self acceptance because if you can’t love and accept yourself for who you are, who will? All it takes is a butterfly effect and you could easily have been him and she could have been you.

Atom: So what now? What advice can you give me ?
God: What advice can I give humanity?
Atom: I suppose so
God: Live your life. Don’t waste your days on the negative energy of others. Remember that you’re not your salary. You’re not your house. You’re not your car. And no matter how big your bank account is, your grave is six feet under just like everyone else’s. So enjoy the days you have. Worry not bout the days that came before you. Nor the ones that will follow you in death. Remember that right here in this moment is all you are guaranteed, and the fact that you are living is what life is all about. So live your life to the fullest, according to your happiness and the betterment of all

 

“1-800-273-8255”  is the phone number for the USA National Suicide Hotline and the title of a song sung from the perspective of someone who’s hit rock-bottom and feels like they do not have the strength to crawl out. Life is hard, especially for the living, but sunrise is never too far away. Somehow, someway, it always gets better. Please don’t give up. (Featuring Khalid and Alessia Clare)

About ‘Black Spider-Man’ Donald Glover should be spider man. Idris Elba should be James Bond. That’s it. I don’t understand why these things haven’t happened yet.

“Afric-Aryan” sums up the theme of the album and is the fireworks that shine the light on how good of a lyricist Logic actually is. Featuring another Afric-Aryan rapper- Clue: he went double platinum with no features.

70dbc21aa145c3d53543193ba861d631-1000x1000x1

Although it sounds all over the place and somewhat defensive sometimes: It’s true that Logic can pass for straight up Caucasian so that may have given him some white privilege but that’s not the point. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s Logic’s story to tell. Not mine nor yours but in a sense too, ours – it’s everybody’s. And it does what it’s meant to do: It makes us feel okay about not feeling okay.

Please make Childish spider-man.

Rated : 4.1 / 5 

 

001 Experiments: Lou Phelps 

It’s great when you get buddy beats from a Grammy nominated dj/producer, but it must suck being known as Kaytranada’s baby brother who raps. 

He’s on a mission to establish himself and to differentiate himself from all the other average rappers. 

He discusses a night of debauchery  with Innanet James in ‘What Time is it?’ . He recalls empty venues, and getting booed off stages in Austin. Lou Phelps is on his come up and boy, isn’t the come up hard. He carries on, he knows the grind is worth it. 

As usual Kaytranada’s touch on this is reminiscent of sunny days and boom boxes and running around fire hydrants. 

Rated: 3.2 / 5

This Old Dog Went Rolling Home: Mac DeMarco 

Music to rock back and forth to. This Old Dog feels like a physical journey. Like a late afternoon drive in a tired old pick up, through strawberry fields. Mac DeMarco is taking you from one place to another. 
So mellow it will melt you in your carpet (or bed, or seat. Wherever you’re listening from, I just happen to be listening from a carpet). Like a 28 year old Elton John, like he’s trying to tell us that he’s the only living boy in New York. 

It feels like he’s  aged 20 years since we last saw him. I bet it’s all those cigarettes. See how in ‘My Old Man’, even he’s surprised by how much older he feels, how much more like his father he’s become. 

The genre of this album is Dad-core. That’s the general theme of this album: fathers. He sees himself resembling the father he never had, walking his own hand. He gives advice to himself in the sage doting way a dad would to his son. 

However, if you miss wishy washy slack guitar Mac DeMarco listen to ‘Still Beating’.  It is Hawaiian nostalgia, a middle school dance with slow rotating disco lights and shiny sequins. He’s comfortable in his long term relationship, he’s apologizing for the songs he sang that hurt her , reassuring her that he loves her just the same as he always has. This one vaguely resembles like Salad days Mac. 

He’s honest. That’s something about Mac that no one can ever take a shit on. They say the best music carries the most pain, Mac DeMarco reflects like someone who’s used to the pain of digging under his skin on the regular; someone who frequently asks himself the question ‘how do I really feel?’ 

He’s always dispensing sage advice like in ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ “with the bluesiest harmonica. Fuck going outside. You really don’t have to socialize with people you don’t want to. 
In ‘Dreams from Yesterday’ Chase your dreams or you’ll regret it when you’re as old as him. 28 is the new 82.

(Rated: 3.2 / 5) 

Free 6lack

Isn’t it every young musician’s ambition to get noticed by a label and signed? For the world to finally know what they’re capable of? To taste stardom on the tip of their tongues?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way. You’ve heard of record labels being compared to satan’s shackles: it’s Michael Jackson unabashedly calling the head of Sony Music Entertainment, Tony Mottola, ‘the devil’. It’s when Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol (the man formerly known as prince) in order to get out of his contract with Warner Brothers. It’s Frank Ocean buying back all his masters.

6lack (pronounced Black) felt imprisoned. His record label had him in chains for 5 years until he finally broke free. Now he has full creative control of his art. As if the album title Free 6lack didn’t say it loud enough, he’s a free man.

The music is much like the artist : a moody and introspective enigma; a black and white instagram filter in real life.

‘Prblems’ is the song that saw him break into the mainstream. Smokey dark bass, trap hats and an honesty that borders on rude. He narrates his situation of being unable to focus on another person because he’s too busy focusing on his goals. The indecision of wanting to be with someone and wanting to be alone. Also, you can’t change a person.

Tell her you love her when next week you just want your space
Why you do, why you do that?
Tell her you want her but next week you do your own thing
Why you do, why you do that?

The flow is crazy on ‘Never know.’

Yeah, nigga this flow is crazy

He basically answers the question ‘how do you make it in this business?’ by talking about what he did: a little bit of self discipline and individuality can go a long way, young grasshopper. Pave your own roads.

In the final track ‘Alone/End’, I did a double take at my speakers because for a moment there I thought I was listening to Ocean. 6lack sings and talks to us and well, he says a lot.

I know that but being around…in that atmosphere and seeing how people move, you know, seeing how, how they make records, you know, what kind of record they make…I’m just like…I don’t want this shit for myself and I don’t ever want niggas to try to pull me into that. ‘Cause I’ve been told a couple times like, “Hey, do this shit man, do that…” And I’m like man, I don’t want, I don’t that for me man.
And if I keep tellin’ y’all I don’t want that shit for me and y’all keep, you know, tryna nudge and push…I understand y’all got your vision and y’all got your formula but that shit don’t work for me man. I’m not gonna conform, I’m not settling for that shit. ‘Cause if I do it once and it pop, I’ma have to keep doing that shit over and over again. You can’t build no fanbase like that. You…you become, you become, you become a fuckin’ song instead of a person. That shit…I’m not…I’m not tryna be that man.

This song wins the award for catchiest and smoothest hook. Furthermore, he reinforces the sage old Ocean adage of Be yourself. Let nothing or nobody confine you.

Here’s to being free.

Rated: 4.4 / 5

( Image : Album Art. Lyrics : Genius )

For The Love of Crate Digging: Pt II

The internet is a vast ocean of music. This is undeniable. You can find anything, from music made 100+ years ago, to 10 hours of Darth Vader breathing.

Whatever you want, it exists out there, somewhere in the great digital blue. All you have to do is know where to find it.

Here are some of my favourite sources of music, found within the seas of Youtube and Soundcloud.

YOUTUBE

i. Majestic Casual

There is no such thing as too many 90’s remixes, cut out anyone in your life who says that. Never speak to them again.

This is where I go whenever I feel like being in a tropical rainforest.

 

 

 

 

ii. Nostalgic Jams

Cruise through their Alternative r&b, as well as the Regular r&b.

 

 

 

iii. Dynmk

True aesthetic in the form of soundwaves. Dynmk is the feelings plug, they’ll sort you out quick.

 

 

 

iv. Mr. Suicide Sheep

Feeding all your electronica, glitch and drum & bass hunger pangs.

 

SOUNDCLOUD

i. Soulection

The smoothest blend of sounds currently out there. Immerse yourself and get lost and don’t try to find a way out.

 

ii. The Seventh Culture

The Seventh Culture is consistently, your go-to link for the best of Nairobi music culture.

Listen to our curated playlist on their channel: featuring Meka Mungai, Huzuni, Smino and others.

 ( featured image : http://vnylst.tumblr.com )

 

American Teen: Khalid

Listening to this album, it feels like most of the songs started out in jam circles with him and his friends. If I could summarize the album in one word, it would be ‘youth’. 18 year old Khalid is aware of his youth and uses it wholly to his advantage.

‘Location’ caught everyone’s attention and put Khalid into a different lane. From being a military kid from El Paso to performing live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and contributing uncredited vocals to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Heart Pt IV’. Indeed, Young Khalid is doing quite alright for himself.

Not to patronize him, but you should notice his lisp on words like “American” and “Therapy”. It’s unendingly adorable.

Admittedly, 2 seconds into the titular track, ‘American Teen’, and I thought, “Oh no. This is going to be some cheesy Katy Perry-esque mishmash of debauchery and patriotism. Shoot me now.” But it wasn’t, and this should serve as a lesson to anyone who prematurely judges a song. At least wait for the 30 second mark before you start sharpening your pitchforks.

However, if you still wish to, you can test his patriotism with the visible folk influences in ‘Another Sad Love Song’; like it was recorded over a bayou.

He has a gritty buttery voice. Like a baby trapped inside the vocal cords of a grown man who has experienced the hardships of life; and whereas Khalid’s hardships involves too many subtweets and not enough dates over Subway, the journey feels all the same. No adversity feels more or less than the other. Khalid is like seeing a wolf with the softest shea-butter fur.

When the lyricism isn’t an ode to youth, it’s heartfelt and sombre. Always dedicated to someone in the second person, not ‘her’ nor ‘him’. ‘You’.

‘Shot down’ is for the slow dance at prom. Comparing his feelings for ‘you’ to being knocked down by a sudden powerful force.

He is a breathing example of the cultural significance of Soundcloud in this day and age, it doesn’t take much for rubies like Khalid to shine. It gives artists a platform to be heard in a world where they would have previously formed part of the ‘listen to my demo’ chatter, piled in the back of an underpaid A & R’s desk.

‘Angels’ is his personal favorite song on the project, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s a divinity to it. Backed by a melodic piano that his voice uses as a platform to propel itself further up, the old-fashioned wordsmith radiates a bright halo glow, as he becomes like the angels he talks to: a transfiguration of sorts because transfigurations almost always take place at the end. He is without ego. He is honest. He is kind. Khalid is the American teen living the American dream.

We float above horizons
And sail across the seas
I hope for better days
And lately times are tough
The angels give me strength
And I’m not giving up

030617-music-khalid-american-teen-album-cover-art

Image: The Fader; Cover art

Lyrics: Genius

Rated: 3.3 / 5

 

For Lack of a Better Playlist | 001

  1. 3WW- Alt-J

Complete with LSD Dream Theatre visuals. Alt-J have gotten weirder, yes. It’s an unrushed fall down the void. No one’s going anywhere. The beat switches when you least expect it except now that I’ve told you, you’ll be expecting it. Spoiler alert.

It plays like your alternative hipster uncle narrating a children’s story over a mason jar of kombucha. Well, 3 different stories. Listen close.

I just want to love you in my own language.


And it doesn’t end when you think it does. Come back, it’s not over yet. Joe & Gus & Elie’s cut and paste vocals complement each other in the most intimate way. If this song was a piece of surrealist art, it would be a Pollock.

Like soft lovers singing to each other in the still of the night from their respective sides of the bed. 3 worn words. I love you.

2. Chorea – Huzuni 窪地 ⏏

I think he could be Blinky Bill’s baby brother. Find me somewhere by the river with this unrestrained Lo-fi truth spill. Sheng meet vaporwave. Shengwave. Who is this ‘Sadness’? How do I tell him how much I love him? I like it when people cut themselves and their real self bleeds out.

3. Passionfruit – Drake

Spanish Riviera.  Sipping champagne watching a sun set over the water’s horizon. Drake is such a tender marshmallow. My heart skips giddy like girls with white knee socks and pigtails in their hairs, jumping rope. I want to eat it, sweet and bitter like passionfruit.

It’s a nonchalant resignation. Drake is acknowledging the end and signing off. Wishing you love, Aubrey.

 

4. Take your time- Meka Mungai ft. Taio

Produced by Nairobi producer, Mr. Lu. R&B from a time when people burnt incense in their living rooms. When music was for lovers.

There are countless scores of beauty

Staggering drums. It plays and the air around me goes thick and moist, engulfing me like a snug onesie.

5. Fools – TylerCole and Wilough

One small step for Sichangi, one giant leap for KE.

Produced by Nairobi based producer Sichangi. Warpy space bass and synths stroke like water paint. Off-beat and lazy hikes through tree archs in the woods.Swishing our limbs back and forth. They came through. They came through on this one.

Our Favourite Soundtracks

CHIA

PALO ALTO

Location: Palo Alto, California.

Adapted from a book of loosely connected short stories written by James Franco, based on his hometown of Palo Alto, California. Scored by Devonte Hynes of Blood Orange fame. The opening sounds of ‘Palo Alto’ are your first steps into this pink hued suburban teenage oasis.

Dev Hynes lays down the mood to expect for the next 100 minutes and immediately, I recognized that this wasn’t your average teenage angst. More boredom and exasperation rather than anger and sadness are experienced through the eyes of April, Teddy, Fred and Emily. As compelling as the story, what drew me in even further was the significance allocated to mood and ambiance. The color of the sky. The color of their eyes.

‘TM’ catches Teddy plucking a calm lo-fi riff in his room while shots switch between April and Teddy. Both in their rooms doing their individualised versions of what the other is doing.

As opposed to the raging up tempo music that are the norms of house parties, their parties are as laidback as the music being played. We have  ‘Champagne Coast’ from Blood Orange and ‘Ode to Viceroy’ by Mac Demarco.

A majestic film with a majestic score dedicated to finding yourself, finding yourself away from others, finding love and acceptance in true unrushed adolescent fashion.

LOST IN TRANSLATION

Location: Tokyo, Japan.

‘Tokyo’ places us in the heart of Tokyo’s bustling streets. You walk into Charlotte’s loneliness with the flanged guitars of Keith Shield’s ‘City Girl’. The Shoegaze landscapes have been painted and the smell of distorted riffs waft through. The awkward stumbling of falling in love.

Sebastian Teller’s ‘Fantino’ lets us explore Japan with Charlotte as we all search for something, anything, remotely interesting to remind us that we’re alive.

The early 2000’s were a completely different time. Charlotte is woken up by the whirring of a fax machine bearing an ‘Are you awake?’ fax at 4 am, instead of the common notification ding of a ‘U up?’ text.

Tracks aside, the sounds from one scene blend into the other. Note how the sound of laserfire slides into the coin drops and lever pulls of slot machines. The fire drill alarm. Bob’s annoying flip phone ringtone. All these contribute to the overall soundscape terrain of the film.

The age gap between Charlotte and Bob is highlighted during the silly karaoke scene at George’s where Bob picks the 1979 classic (What’s so Funny ‘Bout’) Peace, Love and Understanding, and Charlotte picks the 1992 shoegaze ‘Brass in  Pocket’ by Suede, a cover of the 1980 track originally by The Pretenders. Even with the difference in age, I could see that Bob and Charlotte are more alike than I thought.

The entire film is sprinkled with glassy dream pop synths that feel like fingernails softly scratching against glass.

The underlying message of it all seems to be  “You’re not hopeless”and this is true. You are not. And the same way the music bridges the age gap between Charlotte and Bob, it bridges the language barrier between them and the rest of Tokyo. Between us and them.

ERIC

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Location: 90’s Pittsburgh, USA.

Often soundtracks accompany albums. They can be separated and replaced with equivalent versions effortlessly. With Perks, this isn’t the case. Anyone familiar with the story knows this. “Asleep” was the song Charlie found on a mixtape that he couldn’t stop playing. “Heroes” was the unnamed song that gave them infinity.

The soundtrack itself plots out teenagehood. “Dear God” was questioning our faith and justifying it to ourselves. “Could it be another change” was being bigger,sadder and  different.”Temptation” was being 19 and realizing that this isn’t going to last forever. “Teenage riot” was solemnity and rebelliousness. And “Come on Eileen” was fuck it, three more shots won’t kill me.

It flits and cuts through the movie beautifully. The scene at prom where “Come on Eileen” played will forever be etched in my mind. I never went to prom but in those few short minutes I felt the anxiety, nervousness, and pure unbridled joy of it. Call me sentimental but, as with all events, my life can be split into before I saw the scene and after I did. Everything didn’t seem to have the weight and permanency I always felt it had. It was seeing into your soul through someone else’s. It was knowing that there’ll always be someone for you. It was knowing that you don’t always have to be alone.

Oh and if you haven’t seen these movies, please do.

Image: Official posters for the respective films

No Ad Libs: Barak Jacuzzi

Produced by Brakxx. Contrary to the title, Barak Jacuzzi does have an ad-lib: “More Juice.” And true to its spirit, this track is 100% juice. Not diluted. Juice from the cup.

The young Kenyan-American entertainer put on his rap hat, pulled up and took his seat. Not asking. Taking.

‘No Ad Libs’ stirs up sensations of basement parties. LED lights. Sweat and hype and molly fueled energy. He noticed you sleeping on him and decided to do you a favour and wake you up. The bass will hit you first. You won’t see it coming.

The tribal elements of the track and the drill trap style of the song complement each other generously and every now and then his tongue dips into Kenyan Sheng in a manner that may just put it in the same league of street lingo cool as Jamaican Patois.

He carries an A$AP Rocky-esque self confidence that somehow, for reasons yet to be understood, does not spill over into arrogant braggadocio though it lingers rather close sometimes. You get this feeling like he knows he was sent to earth by gods to bless us with the message of ‘More Juice’ and bars rare to this turf.

He throws shade to his rivals in the rap industry, like writing their incompetence with swift steady hand, i.e: He writes his curses in cursive.

You couldn’t make a crowd jump if your name was Kriss Kross

Unfortunately for now, the video has been pulled off of Youtube due to a copyright claim by the producer, Brakxx Beats Africa. But you can listen to it here.

Or here.

 

Rating: 3.5 / 5

( image: kenyans.co.ke )

Sweet. Sexy. Savage: Kehlani

Produced by Jahaan Sweet, Pop & Oak, and Charlie Heat among others, Sweetsexysavage is the posterchild for the multi-dimensional woman. Independent. Confident. Insecure. Selfish. Pretty. Needy. Kehlani. She attempts to rid us of the notion that a female must only be one thing at a given time. A tattoo splattered tomboy sometimes vixen, other times angelic. Kehlani herself is a walking contradiction.

More inadvertently sweet than anything, Kehlani pays homage to the 90’s with an album that conjures up nostalgic thoughts of Aaliyah and Brandy. A dash of SWV. Traditionally constructed in a way that just goes to show you how much of an old school kid Kehlani really is.

She sprinkles that reluctant sweet in ‘In my feelings’:A song about an exasperated girl, grappling with her emotions and trying to understand why she feels more than the other people: an upbeat track with downbeat lyrics. And in the vulnerable Spanish guitar of the ballad ‘Hold me by the heart’ where she drops her guard and humbly asks for a bit of patience.

She turns on the sexy in ‘Piece of mind’ ,a cathartic bonfire sing-along and an ode to better decisions, showing us how sexy self-confidence can be.

She drops the savage in ‘Distraction’, bluntly expressing how little time she has for a serious relationship, all she’s looking for is someone to take her mind off of things for a little while.

Bravery is feeling fear but doing the thing anyway. Kehlani’s background is that of a person that has been tenacious on her come up despite the fact that life did not make things particularly easy for her- from shoplifting food from grocery stores to stuffing two mixtapes and an album in her back pocket. She’s the closest she’s ever been to her dreams, and she’s grateful. The carefree woman. Master of her fate.Captain of her soul.

kehlani-sweet-sexy-savage-artwork

Rated: 3.4 / 5

 

Image : Blavity; Album art

An Introduction to Frank Ocean

WARNING: A sea of bad ocean puns. If you like analysis and bad puns- come, swim good with me. Let’s begin.

There’s a plethora of in-depth analysis and think pieces on Mr. Ocean on the internet. He has this je ne sais quoi about him that just has to be documented. It has to be discussed. It has to be written. Once you have fallen down the rabbit hole and into the Ocean, there’s no swimming back.

My first step into the waters of Frank began with his 2012 performance of ‘Thinkin bout you’ at the VMA’s. Prior to that, I had never heard of him. Who was this stranger in a striped bandana and why was he making me feel some typa way?

He had just come out of the closet and that definitely didn’t sit very well in the testosterone fueled world of hip-hop. T-pain exposed the homophobia of the industry when he blurted that rappers refused to work with Frank Ocean because of his sexuality. I’m sure they regret that decision now. Regardless, Frank stood his ground by performing for millions a love song directed to his first time, and the unrequited love referenced in his coming out letter.

tumblr_m6me6usdo81qdrz3yo1_500

Again, I didn’t know who he was, but I was intrigued. I had to know and since then, I’ve been swimming in Frank Ocean ever since and never once have I needed to come up for air.

It’s hard to throw him into a genre box. Instinctively, one would say r&b but that’s a limiting injustice. Just because a black man sings does that automatically make him an r&b artist? His style ranges from everything to anthems that border on gospel such as ‘Godspeed’ to Intelligent Dance Music in ‘Device Control’ and Post Britpop in his cover of Coldplay’s ‘Strawberry Swing’.

He’s an expert storyteller, who can paint an entire film in a listener’s mind through lyrics and sonic texture.

And now, we may begin.

i.) Somewhere around 2008 – The Lonny Breaux Collection

Born Christopher Edwin Breaux on October 28th 1987, he grew up in New Orleans. In 2005 he relocated to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina caused irreversible damage to his studio. He got his foot in the music industry by songwriting for artists such as Brandy and Justin Bieber and eventually signing with Def Jam/Island Records in 2009, while under the moniker Lonny Breaux.

They say you have to make a lot of bad art before you make good art. Lonny was Frank’s chrysalis stage.

These songs were leaked and compiled by a comrade devotee from the interweb, a majority of them being reference tracks he wrote for other artists. ‘Acura Integrl’ is pretty much the only song he proudly owned from this compilation, so we can safely say that it is the first song he ever publicly dropped.

The collection comprises of mostly cheesy bubblegum r&b, a-la 2008 Justin Bieber. The Midi-mafia production is synth heavy and, honestly, quite cringeworthy. Tracks like ‘Hardest Thing’ sound like he was writing through writer’s block and ‘I Need Love’ is exceedingly whiny. However, Lonny’s corny r&b made a good rhythmic foundation for Frank. Through the factory presets, you can catch a glimpse of Frank slowly brewing inside Lonny. One can sense his frustrations with L.A, a city that doesn’t give love as easily as it is given.

The least unpalatable track is ‘Dying For Your Love’ featuring James Fauntleroy, and would have easily been a hit of that time, had it received any radio play. In 2011, Chris Brown tweeted what could have been interpreted as a backhanded compliment comparing Frank Ocean to singer/songwriters like James Fauntleroy and Kevin Cossum, which led to a tweef (twitter beef) between the two. Tension built up for a couple of years and this eventually resulted in a physical brawl outside Westlake Studio in Los Angeles.

brown2

It’s understandable. While James Fauntleroy and Kevin Cossum are highly regarded prolific songwriters, they’re not G.O.A.Ts. If you’re gonna compare Frank Ocean to anyone, at least compare him to Drake, not Quentin Miller.

Conflicts aside, it just goes to show you perfection isn’t born, it’s bred.

ii.) 2011 – Nostalgia, ULTRA

Nostalgia, ULTRA is what it look likes when a man makes music for himself for the last time, before the world cast its eyes on him and never looks away.

Frank’s frustrations with his label constantly passing him over led to his decision to self release Nostalgia, ULTRA as a free mixtape. He changed his name from Lonny Breaux to Frank Ocean and started affiliating himself with OFWGKTA (A.K.A Odd future), garnering a bit of traction from their fan base.

“You know that guy Frank who sings in Odd Future?”

“Yeah?”

“He just dropped a mixtape.”

“Nice, let’s check it out.”

He blew up after this.

The production is significantly better, sample driven with 90’s nostalgia cassette stops and faint video game soundtracks in ‘Street Fighter’ and ‘Soul Calibur’. He shed his commercial skin with Lonny Breaux and opted for a more individualistic, personal approach.

In ‘Novacane’, he compares the numbness after heartbreak to the pain-suppressing nature of drugs and the elusiveness of happiness. The song title is a wordplay on the anaesthetic Novocain and the cataclysmic figurative supernova that happens when a star dies. He references Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, which Frank also samples from in the track ‘Lovecrimes’, the love crime in question being impregnating his girl in the throes of passion.

The James Fauntleroy outro in ‘American Wedding’ is a string section reminding you that you can do anything that you want. Just believe.

These niggas can’t do nothing that I can’t do
That she can’t do, that he can’t do, that you can’t do, that we can’t do

‘Nature Feels’ is a jiggy explosion that blends ‘nature’ and ‘sex’ into one cohesive theme. He compares himself to a biblical Adam exploring a world unseen.

iii.) 2012 – Channel Orange

Channel Orange is the relaxed, lethargic introspection of a man who has all the time in the world, even though he recorded it in under three weeks. It’s orange because in true synesthete fashion, he recalls the summer he fell in love, when everything was orange.

With pressure from listeners anticipating his second release, Frank gets rid of the elephant in the room by starting the album off with ‘Thinking bout you’. An ode to his first love.

He shows us how the opulence of the 1% in the staccato ‘Super Rich Kids’ and the jazzy cabaret ‘Sweet Life’. Congratulations Frank, you made it.

So why see the world, when you got the beach

‘Super Rich Kids’ is a jagged decadent tale. The song commences with the protagonist starting his day enjoying the view from his roof; carefree and revelling in his inherited wealth. It ends with him at the end of the day, asking, “do they sew wings on tailored suits?” He plunges off the same roof upon the drunken realisation that while money can get you a great many things, it could never buy you happiness. The hook portrays the two major themes: the pleasure of the beginning and the melancholy of the end. Furthermore, Earl Sweatshirt’s verse on the track is a grammy worthy spit to all the latchkey kids who got too big of an allowance and not enough love.

A million one, a million cash
Close my eyes and feel the crash

‘Crack Rock’ and ‘Pilot Jones’ tackles the destructiveness of drug abuse and the havoc it can wreak on loved ones who really do care, but just can’t deal with the addict in their life anymore. It’s drawn from the times Frank spent with his grandfather, a reformed addict himself, who would take Frank to Narcotics Anonymous and AA meetings, where Frank would hear sordid tales of battles against the bottomless pit the is drug addiction.

‘Pyramids’ is 10 minute track about Cleopatra reincarnated. In the second half of the song, after having fallen from grace, Cleopatra finds herself working as a stripper at the Pyramid, in slow bounce R&B format.

Finally, Frank employs Andre 3000 and his bluesy guitar in ‘Pink Matter’ to question existence as we know it, and the utility of a woman.

iv.) 2013 – Unreleased, MISC

A.k.a songs from a tumblr. An unofficial compilation of the singles that Frank put out on his tumblr page.

‘Pyrite’ is the quintessential breakup song, comparing fake love to fake gold, you can always tell the difference. He soberly paints a picture with tropical guitars and beach hues in ‘Voodoo’, a song about the unity and trust required to make a relationship work.

I know pyrite from 24 karat, yeah
Cubic’s from genuine diamond, yeah
A call from the woman who loves you and hello from a friend
I know when it’s real, I know how to tell

 

v.) 2016 – Endless

It had been two and some years of practically radio silence from Frank, when he showed up on his Tumblr teasing an album called Boys Don’t Cry, saying“I got two versions. I got twooo versions…”

tumblr_nmete1zzoc1qdrz3yo2_500

July 2015 was the month. We waited in an excited frenzy. July came, then August, then September, then Christmas, then Easter. Silence. Everyone was losing their shit:  You said July, Frank. You promised. Where are you? Why did you lie to us?

We had lost hope and moved on with the drudgery of our lives until one day in August 2016, a live stream appeared of an empty warehouse. It was him. He was here.

Unfortunately, Endless is in the shadow of Blonde. Either that or it is viewed as a shameless IDM apple plug, a means to the termination of his contract with Def Jam. It flows like one long 45 minute play with one track seamlessly blending into the next. It is highly underrated. It is so much more.

With top notch production and immaculate features from the likes of crooners like Jazmine Sullivan and Sampha. The layered vocals, singing over each other  but not cluttering are a representation of the cacophony that takes place within a  normal person’s mind: different voices saying different things at the same time but somehow in harmony still. It’s airy and reminiscent of James Blake.

He prays that his children get to see him and his love in all their bloom in the gut-wrenching ‘Wither’.

‘Slide on me’ is a syncopated dancehall track with acoustic and deep bass come together as one. There’s a line in it where he says ‘Aki’ and ‘Wallahi’ , whereas ‘Wallahi’ means ‘I swear’ in Arabic and ‘Aki’ means ‘I swear’ in swahili sheng, and I swear my Kenyan self exploded like a firework.

‘In Here Somewhere’ is Jazmine Sullivan driving my feelings down a desert road at dusk.

The outro in ‘Rushes’ is a flooding warmth. The atmosphere instrumentals like ‘Honeybaby: Ambience 002’ dim the lights for you and set the mood.

His vocal capability shines in ‘Rushes To’ and then he  switches up and casually spits macho bars in ‘Higgs/Outro’ as if he did not just gut my heart into a million pieces in the previous song.

 

vi.) 2016 – Blonde

The album formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry. Frank never shies away from tackling weighty topics. From abortion and religion in previous albums, to the ceaseless death of unarmed black men in America in ‘Nikes’. Both Endless and Blonde are highly autobiographical: they chronicle his childhood in New Orleans, his various moves from Texas to New Orleans.

The vaporwave ambition is strong on this one. He built a staircase in Endless, he built a sky in Blonde. Tossing out the synths for guitars.

He switches up the beat in ‘Nights’ from shady undercuts directed towards a resurfaced ex, to gratitude expressed towards an ex whom he owes a lot to. Former lovers you remember fondly and those you remember with the aftertaste of stale cabbage in your mouth. With cruising kicks and snares just to toy with you.

Did you call me from a séance?
You are from my past life
Hope you’re doing well bruh

He brings back 3 stacks on ‘Solo reprise’ who starts the song off with a tribal cry and continues to assert himself at the top of the hip-hop food chain.

‘Seigfried’ feels hazy, like slowly waking up from a dream, drifting in and out of consciousness. It is a romantic and melancholic contemplation of surrender to societal norms and expectations, asking if the fight is really worth it or if he should just throw in the towel. ‘White Ferrari’ is celestial and gentle, about dumb youth and how quickly time flies.

Blonde is unlike anything he’s ever done. It feels limitless, no walls nor boundaries erected. Like an immersive stream of polished consciousness.

Well worth the wait. I forgot why I was even mad in the first place.

 

Bonus: Noteworthy features 

‘She’ & ‘Analog 2’ where him and his buddy Tyler take turns being psychopaths.

He drops the weed in favor of a clear head in ‘Sunday’. The only person Frank has more musical chemistry with than Tyler is Earl. The play off of each other’s energies like a friendly round of ping pong.

The stripped down ‘Frank’s Track’ from Life of Pablo, where he talks of a dystopian future where humans find out that life is indeed precious but by then, it’s too late.

In conclusion, what makes Frank so amazing is how much he refuses the focus to be on him. Don’t look at him, listen to the story- in its words and in its sounds. Pure and simple.

If the story needs him to visually articulate something, he’ll do it for the sake of the story. But the story always comes first. You get this feeling that even he didn’t know where it would go until he put the dot on the last sentence and a picture revealed itself.

You see, the goal of the artist is to get you to see what they see. Of course, this is easier said than done but Frank makes no compromises. He makes sure that what he shows us, what we see, is 100% the way he saw it in his head, the significant bits and the garble jarble. All of it, in its entirety.

Like how he captures both sides of love as a theme. The ‘loving’ and the ‘loveless’. The best of times and the worst of times, but still, it is love and that is what he is showing you.

Or how he can relate love to anything. Drugs and love in ‘Novacane’. Tattoos and love in ‘Blasted’. Religion and love. Cars and love (saying he’s really into cars is an understatement. You know this) I’m sure he could pick the gnarliest topic like a colonoscopy and still find a way to relate it to how love is a pain in the ass.

Every detail is deliberately and meticulously executed. Even in the parts with no lyrics, no instruments, he sets the ambiance just by waking up and scratching his balls like at the end of ‘Strawberry swing.’ Walking home in the rain and setting down his keys. Making love in the back seat of a car. All these sounds emphasize the significance of ambiance to a story, to a picture, to a film, to a song.

Moral of the story: Mom is right. Be yourself. Be secure with yourself. Rely and trust upon your own decisions. Own your own beliefs. Be yourself and know that that’s good enough.

 

Images:  http://frankocean.tumblr.com; The Daily Dot

Lyrics: Genius

              

Yes Lawd!: Anderson .Paak / Knxwledge

Anderson .Paak is winning. In 2016 he got his big break. He released his debut album Malibu. He signed with Dre. Everyone wants a piece of him now, he knows this. Malibu and Venice were two very mature projects, bending and winding into the complex themes of Anderson .Paak’s life. Therefore, he deserves a little fun. As a result, we have Yes Lawd! 

With his candy paint smooth voice and Knxwledge on production, Nxworries may arguably be the smoothest duo of 2017. Signed to the iconic Stones Throw Records that has housed the likes of Madlib, MF Doom and J Dilla. Iconic producers in their own right. 

‘Suede’ being the first single to push the project, Anderson .Paak addresses the various girls who want to “ride in his car” (catch the innuendo). He differentiates the “tricks” from the bitches, and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Gotta whole lot of women, all of them with it
Yes Lord!

The question here is: Is Anderson .Paak sexist or are his pimp genes too strong?

And as long as you don’t call after 6
Then there won’t be any problem

Geez, that’s cold man.

A recurring theme in .Paak’s lyrics is his difficulty of choice between commitment and dishing free loving. He asks the girls to come through in ‘Link up’ where he proceeds to pied piper them back to his place. However, In ‘Sidepiece’ he croons his devotion to one woman, for whom he would gladly give up everyone else for.

The feels take over rationality in ‘Starlite’: he’s in the process of breaking up with her when their song plays and he asks her to fuck everything he’s just said, and stay the night.

Hey, got damn, bitch, they playing our song
I wanna stay with you all night long
Forget every single word I’ve said, I was dead wrong

Before I go any further, you have to remember that this is an Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge album. While the mainstream public is generally familiar with Anderson .Paak by now, they aren’t as privileged when it comes to Knxwledge.

One thing you should know is that his first release was in 2010 and since then he has released about 80 albums and EPs, establishing himself as a legend, in a little under 7 years. If that isn’t hard work I don’t know what is.

Knxwledge is the background calm to .Paak’s hyper charisma. If their music was a club: Anderson would be wilding out at the centre of the dancefloor and Knxwledge would be standing at the back, bobbing his head, vibing to the music and smoking a blunt.

His production really shines in ‘Kutless’ and ‘Can’t Stop’, particularly from the 00:40 mark. Both sound like raw honey tastes, with Knxwledge’s snazzy loops: perfectly sliced and placed samples, as his signature.  80’s nostalgia is prevalent with that jamming Yamaha DX7 synth sound in ‘Scared Money’. Maybe .Paak singing over the first track from Knxwledge’s 2013 album Kauliflowr on ‘Wngs’ can prove to you just how great of a stand-alone artist Knxwledge is, and when fused together with another great artist, magic ensues.

Bless Lawd for this collaboration.

Rated: 3.9 / 5

Image: Consequence of Sound

Lyrics: Genius