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

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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.

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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.

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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…”

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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

The Cozy Tapes vol. 1: Friends

First things first: R.I.P Yams. You’re the only father that we ever knew.

The second annual Yams Day concert was held last Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York and featured artists such as Schoolboy Q, Tyler the creator, and of course, the A$AP mob, to commemorate the life of their founder, A$AP Yams- who formed the group in 2006 and passed in 2015.

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Let’s get something straight, if you’re lit with the squad, then this album goes hard. Not so much if you want something skin deep. Regardless, it reeks of sentimentality. Yams was the glue that tied the block together, now they use him to remember how the pieces were stacked. This is an album for Yams, by Yams. It’s been in the works since 2013 as a follow up to the mob’s 2012 project debut Lords Never Worry.

Arguably, rap’s number one fashion savant, A$AP Rocky chooses a mash up of comfort and design thus remaining the fashion forward face of the mob, while being cozy at the same time. Balenciaga meets global warming.

I like ‘Put That On My Set’ because you can see just how strong the camaraderie between the brothers is, and neither one will hesitate to pull up on anyone (that altercation  with spaceghostpurrp a while ago can be held as proof of this statement). Mean thugging while rocking Gucci durags and staying luxuriously classy. A reincarnation of old glamour in 2016 Harlem.

‘Yamborghini high’ plays like a cypher. All of them pouring a lyrical libation to Yams before going in. You can tell that Yams really did have all their best interests at heart and with him gone…well, they’re like children who’ve lost a parent. Yams was their guiding light and now they have to figure things out on their own, but they’re making music, getting that money, and getting lit like Yams would have wanted.

Tyler the Creator passes by in ‘Telephone Calls’. A$AP Rocky makes a bashful jab at Tyler, poking the dragon, knowing what’s gonna happen when he wakes up.

Tell Tyler, better step his flow up

Tyler’s goofy oddball ways sometimes makes me forget how hard he can spit bars. In my opinion, too much Flacko, not enough Ferg. With Rocky in almost every track and Ferg in two.

Still, this is the dream that Yams dreamt, all his boys reaching their potential. Flying high, living life cozy.

Rated: 3.5 / 5

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Salad Days by Mac Demarco (2014)

…My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…

‘Antony & Cleopatra’

My first encounter with Mac Demarco was with his balls in the music video for ‘Way to be loved’ by TOPS. I concluded that he was obnoxious, and therefore, his music would be obnoxious too. It took me two years to realize that judging people is bad. Mac Demarco is one of the chillest. First proof:  he’s fucking weird.

Second proof: he wrote and produced it by himself, played all the instruments himself and recorded this from his Bedstuy-Stuyvesant apartment. Himself.

According to oxfordstudent.com, Slacker rock can be made by anyone who’s pretty chilled and has a guitar. Mac Demarco in a nutshell. Those riffs are deliberate and majestic.

That aside, he calls his groovy lo-fi sound ‘jizz-jazz’ but it’s also been called blue wave, because that’s just what it is: an ocean wave crashing over you as you lay on the sand and the sand is glittery;  the kind of music you listen to from a hammock strung between palm trees. It’s a 90’s surf tape on VCR.

No intro or nothing too: straight off with the title, ‘Salad days’. Kind of jarring but you start to fall into the cornfield sunset rhythm of it. ‘Let Her Go’ is what would play at your high school dance, if your principal and DJ was Wes Anderson. He asks his friend to be real with his girl, or tell her to leave. In ‘Chamber of Reflections’, He relates his smoke soaked studio to the Freemason chamber of reflections, he’s in isolation. The outro track is a serene goodbye from Mac himself, ‘John’s Odyssey’. He thanks us for listening, see you around.

Moral of the story: Chill, have fun. Tell the farts to shove their advice up their anus.

Rated: 3.4 / 5

I Never Thought That it Would Hit This Hard

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I have friends that got disillusioned by Post Malone once he said his album was going to be more country than hip-hop. I have more friends that knew for sure White Iverson was a fluke, Post Malone is just a kid who would disappoint them with some half-assed mumbles and struggle bars, like everyone else who touched their cheeks and said, ‘saucin’.

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Admit it; you thought Post Malone was a one hit wonder. I did, he probably did too. You see, the rationale behind the one hit wonder is not that the one hit wonder never releases any more music; it’s that nothing else the one hit wonder does will ever top, let alone match, the one hit. However, Post Malone is not a one hit wonder.

Stoney is perfect aux cord music for driving through back roads at 2 am with the squad. The country influence is strong with this one, it’s subtle and present: a small injection of heart and soul and acoustic into smooth bumpings and dank bass.

He pays his respects to A$AP Yams and Bankroll Fresh, they died too young. He talks about life after ‘White Iverson’, the things that changed, the things that didn’t. How badly he’s waited for this moment to flex on the haters. Women that rode him good and did him wrong. Losing yourself in the sauce and it tasted so good.

[Hook]
I wanna go up there
And I don’t ever wanna come down

The sizzling hats orbit around my head, if I close my eyes, I can see the dim studio lights, the flash of a grin and a rose gold grill, I can feel the peaks and the come downs, the liquor, I can smell perfume on the base of a neck.

‘Leave’ is an anthem to anyone who has ever been in an unhealthy relationship, a situationship: How do you leave each other when you can’t leave each other alone? The symphony strings emphasizing the brutal longing of it all, that’s how you know it’s raw.  ‘Go Flex’ is all your dreams unfolding before your very eyes, and you’d remember those nights when you’d stare out into the sky thinking, “Man, I just wanna go flex.”

Post Malone knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s proving some people wrong, he’s proving himself right. August 26th was him teasing. This is the debut, it doesn’t feel like it because he settled in a long time ago, Post Malone is here to stay.tumblr_nsfs6q1dfw1uv2m1to10_540

He’ll be coming down from the high of his life a few more times.

 

 

Rated: 3.8 / 5