You move on, and just know that sometimes the past fully goes away and sometimes it just stays inside you, in a little strange heart-shaped box.
It’s November 2016 and I’m parked outside KFC breaking up with the person I love. We just had a meal and even though no mention was made of the coming event, the elephant in the room was in the next booth having a two-piecer. It played out like most breakups do so I won’t go into the details.
Many tears later, I’m driving away and PPP by Beach House is playing on the radio. Like a time-capsule, the song takes this moment and buries it deep in my sub-conscious – to be unearthed with each play.
Music is especially good at framing moments.
In a sense, this is what movie soundtracks are for. You can’t hear Hans Zimmers “Time” without tumbling into the dreamscape that is Inception or Vanessa Carlton’s “1000 miles” without picturing Terry Crews blaring his heart out (and if you don’t then there’s something terribly wrong and you should get that checked out).
As Africans, we preserve(d) our culture through song. Some chronicled individual experiences while others addressed the experiences of the community as a whole. Music conveyed our history from one generation to the next for centuries until the white man came and turned everything into shit. Still, the value of song to the African didn’t dissipate.
When we’re children we gain an emotional attachment to music even before we know what it actually is. Had you asked me whether I listened to Erykah Badu before 2016 my answer would be a firm no. But as soon as I hear ‘Next Lifetime’, it’s a warm Saturday morning and I’m eight again at the back of my mum’s maroon starlet with Ms. Badu on Capital FM. I can feel the sun through the tinted window, the cold belt buckle on the palm of my fidgety hands and the calm familiarity that only comes with being in the presence of a loved one.
The older we grow, the more ingrained this connection becomes. You are more likely to be emotionally connected to the music you listened to in your adolescence/young adulthood than the music later on in your life. That’s what the nostalgia radio stations (Classic FM ahem ahem) capitalize on.
Conversely, we all know a number of people that bash new music for the sole reason that it is new. If you’re anywhere in my age-group, listen. Cherish the music you’re listening to now. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself at forty-five backhanded by SWAT’s verse into an emotional spiral of fleeting adulthood. Find a room to cry in so as not to traumatize the children.
This is why it’s monumental to us when someone likes the same songs that we do. Listening to music is something that we do alone so when we find someone that shares their solace with the same music, we don’t feel so alone anymore. However, similar interests do not necessarily translate into compatibility as I’m sure we’ve all learned by this point in our lives. But I digress.
The songs that unearth all these buried emotions are good for you. Especially when it comes to heartbreak because remembering it is as essential as the heartbreak itself. If you forget then cycle is likely to recur. Try it. Put your phone on shuffle and dredge out all the muck from long-lost lovers. Remember the good and the bad.
After the breakup, the opening keys of Beach Houses ‘PPP’ now play like impending doom in my head. I’m standing at the shore watching the tsunami roll in and since all my bridges are burnt, there’s nowhere else to go. It’s almost beautiful, really. The guilt hits first (why do I feel this way if I’m the one that did the breaking up) and then the trauma comes next (more concerned with feeling than reasoning why). When my bones are shattered and my soul crushed, the clouds part and catharsis finally shines through.
So I brush away the sands of self-pity and play the next song.
Image: Masashi Wakui
Chicago rappers all have the gift of introspection. Common, Kanye, Mick Jenkins and Noname must have all looked into that giant metal bean and seen the inner depths of their souls.
Saba is taking this to new heights. Listening to this album feels like flipping through his black leather-bound journal, a live-band playing along in the background, his thoughts laid bare on the page. It’s impossible to turn away.
The albums running theme is family and loss. Like a collection of intricately done sketches, each song is something to marvel at. Saba is in mourning and this is his catharsis. For him and for us too.
In 2017, Saba’s cousin, John Walt, was stabbed to death. They and other friends formed PIVOTGang, a collective fronted by Saba. The significance of this event is visible throughout the entire album.
On the opening track “BUSY/SIRENS”, Saba marinates in his loneliness. He doesn’t complain about it but, rather, discerns it’s source. He wants it to change while accepting that it is a part of who he is. TheMind puts it succinctly when he says:
Survivor’s remorse is the motif for the second half of “BUSY/SIRENS”. Walt is on the floor bleeding to death and there’s nothing Saba can do about it.
I jumped to conclusions when I first heard the chorus to “BROKEN GIRLS”. At first, I thought Saba was romanticising mental illness. Using female pain as a stepping stone, as men have always done. It isn’t though. Saba critiques his feelings for the partners he’s had in the past. Instead of an ego trip, he gives us ego death.
This whole time, been obsessed, being sad
She was my, quick escape, made me forget
Hear her speak, see her weak, made me feel big
“LIFE” is the closest thing this album has to a banger which is a good thing really because this album isn’t supposed to bang. On it, we feel his rage. His handwriting tears through the pages as he laments all the people he’s lost in the short life that he’s lived.
On “CALLIGRAPHY”, Saba confronts his demons. All the running he’s done hasn’t gotten him anywhere (exercise≠exorcise). Anywhere he wants to be, that is. Instead, he’s going to write them away. Not for us or his career but for himself and, in this age of constant and perpetual oversharing, maybe that’s what we all need.
I can’t get out of bed
I’m not mad at God
But I can’t get out of bed
(I’m going to end up talking about pretty much every song on this album but hey, you’ve made it this far)
“FIGHTER” is one of my favourite cuts of the album. Like a white flag flapping in the wind, Saba surrenders. He’s tired of fighting and that’s perfectly fine. He subverts toxic masculinity without cuffing his jeans or wearing pastel like the icon that he is. There’s honour in futility but only if you admit to it first.
This is also one of the best verses of 2018 tbh. I have to put the whole thing here.
Me and my girl just fought ’cause I talked before she could talk
She was tellin’ a story, I cut her off with some shit not ’bout
The same topic so she just stopped in the middle before the plot
Hit the rest of the car ride silent like “You always do this”
Like “You don’t value my thoughts, either that or you too damn stupid
To realize that if you don’t hear me out then I’ma feel muted
You say that you care, well show it, I’m not askin’ a lot
I know you think you listenin’ but you just waitin’ to talk”
The sun shines through on the next cut, “SMILE”. He channels his inner Aminé and exchanges gloom for a warm dose of nostalgia. Family is central to Saba and it shows.
Warmer outside and safe ol’ playground, grandma payroll cut, yeah
Whenever I’m trying to do anything to the best of my capabilities, I imagine someone important to me watching because their imaginary approval matters more than my own. “LOGOUT” encapsulates this by showing the weight we give to our virtual identities. Nothing we do matters if no-one is there to see it. It’s like the philosophical cliché “if a tree falls in the forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Ain’t no beauty in the absence of broadcastin’ to your followers
I’m a total sucker for hip-hop songs that double as stories. Immortal Techniques “Dance with the Devil” or Ab-Soul’s “Book of Soul” being prime examples. When rappers strip away the metaphors and get intimate, shivers run through my body. “PROM/KING” is this and more. I won’t do it any justice by writing about it, so in the immortal words of Frank Ocean ‘here’s what I think about music and journalism: The most important thing is to just press play’.
“HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME” is the perfect close to the album. On the first track, he imagines his cousin’s lifeless body on the floor, sirens wailing in the distance. Saba paints the ensuing chaos on this song. We can hear the hospital bed as it rattles through the hospital halls, the rhythmic beep of life-support machines, flowers on his bedside, the glint of the Grim Reapers scythe as he hovers away.
It’s alright though, Saba concludes. His soul is in a better place.
I came across Joji when I fell down a Spotify-shaped rabbit hole some time ago. Mentally, I wasn’t at the best place so his music fit my mood perfectly. His lo-fi brand of melancholy was extremely soothing to my soul and I was going to do a feature but as always, procrastination decided otherwise.
Late last year, I meet this guy at a friend’s graduation and we get into a conversation about 88rising, an Asian label that’s been gaining a lot of traction lately. Dude asks me if I listen to Rich Chigga and of course, I do. He asks if I know Joji and again, I do. Then he asks if I listen to Pink Guy. I haven’t.
Now, for the uninformed, Pink Guy is, to put it simply, an extremely fucked up Teletubby. He does normal YouTuber things like prank videos, skits and occasionally, cooks rats.. This befouled cartoon character brought to life is a creation of George Miller who also happens to be the aforementioned artist, Joji. Turns out before Joji was Joji, he was Filthy Frank. A Youtuber I had only heard of in passing. Are you still with me? Good.
Think of the vilest, most repulsive troll you can think of and maybe then you’ll be close to imagining who Filthy Frank is. Currently, at 5.2 million YouTube subscribers, Filthy Frank embodies a brand of comedy that crosses unsettling, passes absurdist and lands right at the center of fucked up. Like a live-action family guy.
Filthy Frank and Pink Guy are both characters that George Miller plays. They exist in a universe of his own creation bound only by his rules and his moral code. They are in no way a representation of who he actually is.
This juxtaposition between Joji (plaid-wearing mopey indie artist) and Filthy Frank (Satan incarnate) got me thinking about artists and their personas. At what point does the artist stop and the art continue?
I believe that there are roughly two ways to answer this.
You could choose to see the art that one creates as separate and distinct from the one that creates it. A parent gives life to their child but ultimately they are two separate people. The good thing about this is that it allows us to appreciate art objectively. It allows us to listen to R. Kelly without thinking of golden showers or watch House of Cards without bile seeping down our throats.
At the same time, by separating the art from the artist you’re effectively turning your back on the things that they may have done. If your favourite musician beats his girlfriend and you continue to listen to their never-ending stream of music aren’t you continuing to support them? Or alternatively, to turn this question on its head, if you boycott whatever artist that happens to be embroiled in the saga of the day are you denying the others involved in the creation of that art their due? It’s kinda like the teacher making the whole class kneel because of that one loud mouth. Is moral indifference the answer? To quote an extremely articulate friend of mine:
The art and the artist may or may not be separate, but the fact that the art feeds the artist and the artist feeds the art means that we must link them together.
This brings us to the second perspective you can choose to take in your interpretation of this relationship. Art as an expression of its creator. Whatever you create, whatever you say, is an expression of you. Everything you’ve ever said or written is semi-autobiographical whether you like it or not. The children that I will have someday will be persons separate from me but I shall continue to exist in their big eyes and lack of facial hair. Oscar Wilde puts it brilliantly in The Picture of Dorian Grey when he says, ‘Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter’.
If you take this view, everything is ruined for you. The moment we hear George R.R. Martin got a little too frisky with his secretary, you can never go back to Westeros. Filthy Frank and Pink Guy, despite being characters, would then be inseparable from George Miller.
There’s no clear course of action. At least, I don’t see one.
For you, is art like the bible? An outpouring of words from people inspired.
Is art like a Picasso? A broken and true reflection of society. Or are we not meant to understand any of it?
At the end of last year, George brought Filthy Frank to an end. He explains that he no longer enjoyed producing that kind of content and that playing all those different characters took a toll on his physical and mental health. Here, the artist has brought his art to an end. The connection is now severed. I wish I could say the same about Woody Allen.
Featured Image: The Great Wave off Kanagawa; Hokusai
Let’s face it, 2017 sucked. Everything that could have gone wrong mostly did go wrong. Chester Bennington and Lil Peep died. Sheesha got banned (we’re still reeling). However, in the nasty grey rubble that was 2017, a few diamonds were found – and they came in the form of music. Music is the only thing that saved us closing the curtains and calling it quits so, in appreciation of this, we have compiled our favourite songs from this year. This list is not in any particular order because we feel the songs may be too different to compare. Enjoy and forgive us for all the gems we’ve probably missed.
10. Dreezy, 6lack, Kodak Black – Spar
Political dissatisfaction has been a major theme in hip-hop this year and Trump is the punching bag that every rapper gets a round at. Rightfully so, in fact. The most precise and pin-pointed attack has been courtesy of Dreezy, 6lack, and Kodak. Inhabiting arguably different spectrums of the genre, these artists came together to channel their anger against a broken system. All on a disgusting trap beat.
9. Tyler, The Creator – 911/ Mr. Lonely (feat. Frank Ocean)
Loneliness in 2017 is a cliche. Everyone is sad and wants to die, you don’t really need to say it anymore. Tyler turns this on its head and reaches out. To the cops. It’s a pretty standard ‘Tyler the Creator’ way of doing things but he commits to this feeling throughout the entire song. The most melodic cry for attention this 2017, featuring a hook from Daddy Frank himself.
8. Jorja Smith – On my mind
Jorja Smith’s fame skyrocketed this year. After her feature on More Life, Jorja’s run of epic singles began. Capping them off would be ‘on my mind’, my favourite of them all. On a UK garage beat, a largely dormant genre this year, Jorja voices her anger towards a, particularly shitty lover. It’s catchy and her soulful voice brings the point across clearly. Hope we can finally get an album in 2018.
7. Tunji – Mat za Ronga
This jam made traffic especially fun for me. Trying to find all the mats from the song was like bingo for particularly sunny days on Langata road. Tunji takes this part of our culture and gives it the recognition it deserves in a song that is as grand and bright as the matatus he describes. If there was a club anthem this year, it would be this song (right after Bablas, of course).
6. SZA – 20 Something
This is a survival prayer. It’s stripped down to just her voice and a guitar to guide you in traversing this borderline between childhood and adulthood: the summary of being in your 20’s.
It’s okay to be scared of an unknown future. It’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be a little sad sometimes because you’re not where you feel you’re supposed to be. I think you should give yourself more credit though. Clap for yourself, you made it through another year of driving blindfolded, but can’t you feel the mask slowly slipping with each passing moment? Isn’t your vision and the direction you want getting clearer each day?
You’re not alone, we’re alone. Together.
5. Thundercat – Lava Lamp
This drunken silly man just sang what might be the feelsiest song of any album this year. Free from judgement, it’s an ode to detachment. To distancing yourself from what is not of benefit. To letting go. Only then will you realize that you don’t really need everything you imagined.
4. Ibeyi – Me Voy
It’s December. Let the island rhythm set you lose and loose you. Raindance in the night time under a bamboo showers. Feel the humidity with every beat of the drum. Ibeyi might be this decade’s NinaSky. Channeling their ancestors. Vibrating on a higher frequency.
3. Col3trane – Penelope
I’m sorry but Coltr3ane is to Frank Ocean what Desiigner is to Future.
Hello ethnically ambiguous Frank Ocean jr. Even how he gets you bumping to the saddest lyrics is Frank. The beat switch ups are Frank. The heavy reverb that makes him sound like he’s singing in a fast speeding air-conditioned car – is Frank.
I’ll take it. This is what I prayed for all the years I sat gathering dust in a corner, waiting on Frank to finally drop Blonde.
2. Omousangare – Koun koun (Jinku remix)
The way it starts is like it’s on a jungle river rowing you at a steady pace. You trust where it’s going because it’s happening at the right time at the right place, even the transitions happen at the right time at the right place. It’s always the right time. It’s always the right place.
It breathes and gently hits. Like an entire village chanting for rain or harvest. A song of the people.
Like a song mother taught you when you were young, and you don’t know what the words mean, but you understand the feeling of it. The meaning is innate even though you don’t necessarily speak the language. You know what it means.
- Jaden Smith – BLUE
‘Did you listen and did you kind of understand the fact that it’s four separate songs that is one?’
SYRE, as a whole, felt like an entirely new approach to the arrangement of an album. The intro is four songs long and the outro is in the middle of the album. BLUE, the crown jewel of the album, plays out like an orchestral arrangement. We have a crescendo at the beginning of L, avant-garde chord progressions and the most random changes in tempo. I love it. The entire album is inspired by the major artists of our generation. Kanye, Cudi etc. This bit, however, is entirely Jaden’s. Confusing and non-sensical but, ultimately, compelling.
Featured image: Masashi Wakui
My relationship with love is murky. I can swear- and I have sworn- that I’ve felt it, but I really don’t trust myself on this anymore. I know that I’ve used the word when I shouldn’t have. I also know there times I should have used it but I didn’t. Have I lived life long enough to understand what it really is? Probably not. Even then, what is it really? I have all these questions to which there can be no definite answer.
Instead, what I want is the conviction that comes with lovelessness. I want my walls dark and cold and more importantly, I want to be okay with that.
Aromanticism—the incapacity or unwillingness to reciprocate romantic feelings or love
Moses Sumney’s debut Aromanticism is active in its embrace of despair. Love is mandatory and we are all expected to be at some stage of it. Falling into it, falling out of it, searching for it or running away from it.
On “Don’t bother calling”, Moses knows enough about love to know that he can’t do it. He sees it and he feels it but he doesn’t want it. It’s honest and necessary. Better to not be loved than to be strung along. Even when you’re the one doing the stringing.
You need a solid, but I’m made of liquid
Trust in me, I am the son of the sea
And I’ll call you when I feel finally free
Through the lenses of gloom, Moses paints a relationship. He describes a love that is grotesque and bare. Undesirable to him and him alone.
Through the walls of Jericho
Lies a heart of stone
With you, half the battle
Is proving that we’re at war
Moses’s sullen voice is the soul of every song with every instrument rising and falling on his command. It is breathy and atmospheric and the production value is underplayed. The bass section stars Thundercat and Ludwig Göransson, the producer responsible for most of Childish Gambino’s albums.
Like Moses, we should ignore all the formalities that come with love. Love doesn’t have to be a cat and mouse game. Say what you want from the outset. Make it easier for everyone.
I’m not tryna go to bed with you
I just wanna make out in my car
“Doomed” plays like a dirge. Moses believes in love but he doesn’t feel it. Will he be punished for this? He asks himself. In not feeling love, is he doomed?
If lovelessness is godlessness
Will you cast me to the wayside?
Moses isn’t doomed. To quote Buddha, no one saves us but ourselves. It could be faith or it could be self-love but there’s enough in you to keep you sane. If you don’t know what that is for you then talk to someone.
“And if you couldn’t be loved, the next best thing was to be let alone.”
Image: NY Times
Rated: 4.2/ 5
Today’s post is brought to you by the ever charismatic, ever entertaining music junkie herself, Joy Ruguru.
Who’s that chic? I asked my events buddy as we sat in the dark auditorium listening to the bird on stage. She’s Achieng, he whispered back. Hmm, how do you know her?
“Kwani you don’t watch Jamhuri Festival?”
As soon as I settled home that night after the Mufasa poetry event, I went straight to my laptop. Typed ‘you’ and Google did the rest. There, I finally found my answer.
Since then in mid-2016, I spent a few minutes every other day on the Jamhuri Festival YouTube channel. Waiting for me were familiar Kenyan artists like H_art The Band, and Fena Gitu who was doing her thing tho. Bensoul was even singing on his own before Masheesha happened.
So this was the famous online music series called Jamhuri Jam Sessions. With already 2 ‘volumes’ and almost 20 episodes, there was a lot to see. The deal? A talented Kenyan artist performed an African song cover followed by their original song. Not on a wide stage like Achieng though, but in a tiny room that resembled a studio. Sometimes you’d also find a Sauti Sol member deftly playing his guitar with his Fancy Fingers.
I was even convinced Jamhuri Festival was his brainchild.
May the real founder please stand up. It was only this year that I met Tom Olang’o, a Nairobi-based bass player – who’s only 23! As the name suggests, he started Jamhuri Festival as an event back in August 2015. That night, both old and new Kenyan artists came together to perform to the youthful crowd at Alliance Francaise Garden. They went through a Kenyan musical journey traversing the last two decades – complete with electrifying performances from Mr. Lenny to Le Band.
I know, where were we?
But let’s go back a bit further. If you still remember your Kiswahili from school, jamhuri is the African word for republic. Tom and his friends wanted to give Kenyan artists the freedom and independence to express themselves through music. A platform to create and share their talents. So far, they’ve done this through community block parties, and even free creative clinics for upcoming artists.
Oh, and you hear about Twice Upon Yesterday – an event held by Third Hand Music that featured a host of other Nu Nairobi acts? Jamhuri Festival was there too.
Their most recent collaboration is a yummy one – with Nyama Mama restaurant at Delta Towers in Westlands, Nairobi. You may have seen a video of Steph Kapela singing with kitenge cushions lying lazily in the background. Yup, our artists have upgraded from a tiny sitting room to the open seating space of the swanky new restaurant in town. But that’s not even the best part.
Every Wednesday night, Jamhuri Festival hosts a local artist or band to perform there in what is dubbed Mama’s Jamhuri Sessions. Free event by the way. This where you meet all the cool cats you only knew of their existence from the YouTube channel, either performing or supporting a fellow artist. Basically, it’s a gathering of music lovers. For example, did you know Phy is one petite lady? Kinda like Arianna: small body, grand voice.
In the urban crowd, you will always spot the tall and dark bass player, who looks nothing like 23. He usually has this cool denim jacket on with the colorful Jamhuri Festival logo plastered on the back; you wish he could bless you with one. But since you’re humble, you sit down and enjoy a cold drink or the gourmet version of your favorite Kenyan meal. And take it down with a glass of fresh Nu Nairobi music.
Okay, enough talk from me. Since you came here to watch videos, here are 5 of the best Jamhuri Jam Sessions to satisfy your curiosity (it wasn’t easy to narrow it down by the way). These fiery voices warmed my heart, proof that Kenyan music is golden. Don’t believe me?
Wendy with the catchy songs. Slay, queen:
Introducing your next three favorite boys in town (after H_art The Band that is):
It was 2017 when the Kenyan Trapper went Spanish guitar on us:
Get your tissues ready, guys. I mean girls:
And of course, Ach13ng:
I know what you’re asking yourself… how do I get to watch these guys perform live? Well, Kemunto already slew the Nyama Mama stage and snatched my heart at the same time. I (and someone else I know here) cannot wait for Ayrosh’s turn. Yeah, Folk Fusion wasn’t enough new school mugithi for 2017.
With this post, I now give you the power to discover your new favorite Kenyan acts every week on Jamhuri Jam Sessions. Since I know all you cool cats are on Instagram, follow Jamhuri Festival to know the next Nyama Mama star. Because who knows, it might just be Achieng.
For more writing that breathes into your soul, visit The Music Junkie. You can also catch her on The Music Junkies on USIU Radio from 12-2p.m.
Two songs came out in 2016 that didn’t receive the airplay they deserved until later this year. These two songs are now certified classics. Songs you will play a month from now, on your wedding day and to your kids on long road trips.
Goldlink – Crew
Daniel Caesar – Get You
Once ‘Get You’ hit, Daniel Caesar’s shot to fame was bright and meteoric. When his first EP (Praise Break, 2014) came out, it was ranked number 19 on Rolling Stone’s Top Twenty R&B albums of 2014. I felt very left out. He’s been on his grind for three years but we’re only listening to him now? That’s the price artists pay for stardom. No-one cares how good you are until you have your first hit. Coincidentally, Goldlink.
Anyway, Daniel hasn’t stopped working hard.
His debut album Freudian is a sonical landscape of love and heartbreak intertwined like lovers on Insecure. On ‘Best Part’, his duet with H.E.R, aided by softly-strung guitars, hands inch closer to each other, stares grow deeper, the shade under the tree is warmer.
You’re my water when I’m stuck in the desert
You’re the Tylenol I take when my head hurts
You’re the sunshine on my life
‘Hold Me Down’ takes gospel and turns it into a PartyNextDoor interlude. Kirk Franklin into Tiller.
The rest of the album plays like a live concert. Songs flow into each other sounding better together than apart.
‘Loose’ plays out like intimate backstage practice. On the last half of the song, he performs the introduction to ‘We find love’ and it sounds like unrequited love. Sad, harsh, beautiful. When the song begins, this turns this into a rally cry. Breakups suck but it isn’t the end. We rise and we fall. The end is not the end.
He still want to be loved though. He still wants it to all mean something.
On ‘Blessed’, Daniel is a junkie at the knees of love. I may not be good for you but I can’t live without you.
It’s the way that you pray
Prey on my insecurities
Daniel takes his gospel roots and, hand in hand with an actual gospel choir, redefines soul in 2017.
This album will be a classic. Quote me.
What a beautiful album. Thanks for letting me do my thing on it 🙂 and for the salad last night that i didnt have time to eat lol pic.twitter.com/jaULA90Kvf
— syd (@internetsyd) August 26, 2017
Here’s a really nice piano cover. I hope it makes your day a little brighter:
Rated: 4.4 /5
Aminé, born Adam Aminé Daniels, is a child of Eritrean and Ethiopian immigrants, tired of people mispronouncing his name.
When the triple-platinum song “Caroline” came out, no-one knew what to say. Here’s this guy with an unnecessary number of bananas in his video, with weirder ad-libs than a Migos feature, and, again, a weird sounding name. A combination of all these factors, and amazing hair, took him to number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart (on Jan 7 2017, which was my birthday!)
His album, Good For You, is every bit as Aminé we had come to expect and more. Every song sounds as if it was recorded in the ambience of yellow walls and banana-centric fruit salads. It’s alternative hip hop and dancehall combined in ways Drake wouldn’t dare to try.
New rappers these days have oddly similar tendencies. As soon as any gets their first few hit singles, the main topic on their debut album becomes the “started from the bottom now we’re here” story (see: Post Malone). This bothers me because becoming great is a process and a debut album is nothing but the beginning. When Drake recorded ‘Started from the Bottom’, he already had two platinum albums. Aminé, unlike his freshmen in his class, pours his honest soul into his first attempt.
The album starts off with an amazing intro featuring the underrated Ty Dolla Sign. Despite sharing the stage with this acclaimed artist, Amine steps to the front and carries the song with his charisma and never-before-seen flow.
When recording the song “Yellow”, Aminé heard that Nelly was in the next studio and fangirled his way in. He asked him to come into his studio and this bright ray of sunshine was born:
Flyest under the sea, I’m gettin’ Krabby Patties (true)
Dukes gave me juice so this beat feel like it’s caffeine
Dreadlock nigga so my hair is pretty nappy (woo)
On “Hero”, he takes a stand on the mispronunciation of his name. He’s made it this far, the least we could do is know what é is.
Respect, that’s all I ask for
My feelings feel too
The sun sinks and dawn sets on the second half of his album, with songs espousing mellow evenings with the family and his verses becoming harder and clearer. On the song ‘Sunday’, he takes an existential step back and looks at his life through the lenses of fame:
And she left me at the house
She left me at the house
Religious but I’m lazy
Naked like a nudist
Fruity Loops and Stanley Kubrick
Peanut butter jelly
Cousin bumping Makaveli
Sipping Stellas with my fellas
Bumping nothing but Fela Kuti
On the cut “Turfs”, Aminé channels his inner Frank Ocean and gives us a narrative about throwing yourself at life:
I look around and I see nothing in my neighborhood
Not satisfied, don’t think I’ll ever wanna stay for good
Packed up my bags, told Mom and Dad I’ve gotta go, go
And once I do, they’ll finally see the inner me
When he speaks of what comes after, it isn’t the rags to riches stories that we’re sick off. It’s clarity and honesty and confusion:
Livin’ in LA for the weather, I FaceTime mom when I miss her
I got some homies that’ll never leave my hometown
When I pull up to the corner, it smell like Miley Cyrus
I told ’em I don’t smoke, they say “Boy, you fuckin’ wildin'”
The album feature list grows longer with contributions from Charlie Wilson (!!!), the auspicious Kehlani and Migos number-two, Offset.
Listening to this project, I’d say Aminé is happy with his life. Someday, he’s going to be Kanye but today, he can afford to buy his sister Supreme and that’s a heck of a start.
Rated: 4.1/ 5
Image: Pigeons and Planes
We’re all secretly depraved on the inside.
One of my favorite songs from Tyler the Creator is ‘She’. In it, this guy likes this girl and, as in most songs, he tries to pursue her. Unlike most songs however, Tyler details the lengths he is wiling to go. The bridge goes like this:
Eight is the bullets if you say no after all this
And I just couldn’t take it, you’re so motherfuckin’ gorgeous
Gorgeous, baby you’re gorgeous
I just wanna drag your lifeless body to the forest
And fornicate with it but that’s because I’m in love with you, cunt
It’s depraved. But somehow, it’s sweet. Tyler does this masterfully. He walks the thin line between romance and necrophilia. Death and love. In his new album, it’s the same Tyler. Just this time instead of death and fornication, we get Scum Fuck and Flower Boy.
This album is Tyler’s existential crisis. This time, though, instead of being worried about his mental wellbeing (or being disgusted by it), we can empathize. Not all of us want to kill and romantically subdue our crushes, but we all feel lonely.
I need love, do you got some I could borrow?
I find this particularly profound because Tyler was the founder of Odd Future. To the uneducated, Odd Future was the rap group that gave us: Frank Ocean, The Internet, Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy, Domo Genesis and many other artists. Basically, Tyler once had very many friends. Now he’s alone? I mean, in the video below he was literally surrounded by his squad. I’ll go into the intricacies of Odd Future in another article.
This is something we can relate to. Haven’t we all at one point been in a situation that’s vastly different to the one you’re in now? I mean, how many high school ‘friends’ have you kept in touch with?
On the song “Foreword”, we get Tyler’s self-doubt:
How many cars can I buy ’til I run out of drive?
How much drive can I have ’til I run out of road?
How much road can they pave ’til they run out of land?
How much land can there be until I run in the ocean?
Life is absurd and nothing really matters, so what’s the point of it all?
And if I drown and don’t come back
Who’s gonna know? (Baby, then I’ll know)
We get to see a sweeter side of Tyler free from rape-filled undertones. It’s pretty nice for a change.
On this cut, Tyler proves his talents as a producer. The production value on cuts like “I ain’t got time” and “Who Dat Boy” are amazing. Further, the features are the best 2017 has offered so far. Jaden Smith, Kali Uchis, Lil Wayne, Steve Lacy, A$AP Rocky, Estelle and Frank Ocean? Step back and bow down please.
On this album, Tyler mentions topics or subjects that allude to his sexuality. Articles across the interwebs have come down on this and so far, Tyler hasn’t said much. I try not to fan the flames because someone’s sexuality isn’t click bait. If Tyler really has come out, then I’m really happy for him. The closet is cold and dark and KFC charges for deliveries. If he’s trolling us then we’re probably used to it.
Rated: 4.2/ 5
We don’t take artists as seriously as we should.
Creating music is a process that, ideally, should come from within. This is why rappers get so much shade if they are found or suspected to be using ghost writers. It’s considered wrong because music should be an artist’s impression of their own life. If someone wrote for you the words that we, as listeners, take to be true, it feels like actual betrayal. Kendrick spoke about peer pressure and we take all of his Compton adventures to be true and solid. If we find out, years from now, that he never wrote what we actually listen to then he would lose his value and standing as an artist.
As a wide exception to this, we give artists creative freedom. You can lie and give us all the bullshit you want as long as they are your lies and it is your bullshit. Artists can bend and will their reality as they please because that’s what being an artist means. It means being creative and telling us ordinary things in a meaningful and poignant way. There’s a very thin line between being honest and creative and letting someone else be honest and creative for you. This is what we demand from our artists. That they give us truths as long as these truths are from them. Not ghost written.
This artistic independence means that, a lot of the time, we don’t take artists as seriously as we should. Music, as myself and Chia have written about, is background noise to us these days. We don’t sit and listen to music, we vibe to it. What this means is that we end up listening to the music and not the artist. We miss their cries for help because that drop after the second verse was insane. We vibe but we don’t empathize.
Joy Division was an alternative band formed in England in 1976. Their lead singer was Ian Curtis, a soulful singer with a very gritty voice. They achieved a moderate amount of success in the late 70’s. On 18th May 1980, Ian Curtis committed suicide. Thing is, his lyrics were dark. To quote his wife after his death ‘His lyrics were dark. So very dark.’ His bandmates knew this. Because of the opaque banner that is ‘creative license’ we take these words and shove them under the carpet. We vibe but we don’t empathize. I mean, if this is not a cry for help then what is?
Chester Bennington, the lead singer for Linkin Park, died a week ago.
I may have appreciated the artistic works of Prince and Michael Jackson and mourned for them when they did, but I didn’t grow up with them. I didn’t feel their deaths the same way that my parents did. They were not part of the culture I adore, they were only idols to it. But I grew up with Chester. At 13, I knew every Linkin Park song from every Linkin Park album that existed, I shit you not. Through their music, my angst and frustrations with the absurdity of life had a voice. Their music was loud and filled with pain but it warmed my growing soul. But, just like Tyler the Creator’s coming out, all the signs were there.
Somewhere I belong (2003) Meteora
I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long
(Erase all the pain till it’s gone)
I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong
Easier to Run (2003) Meteora
It’s easier to run
Replacing this pain with something numb
It’s so much easier to go
Than face all this pain here all alone
Crawling (2000) Hybrid Theory
Crawling in my skin
These wounds they will not heal
Fear is how I fall
Confusing what is real
I’m not saying we should overanalyze everything we hear because our favorite artist is going to kill themselves. Sometimes people don’t mean what they say and that’s fine. What I’m saying is that we should listen. Show compassion. Realise that creative license is just that. James Bond has a license to kill but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a alcoholic womanising gun-toting murderer.
If you have or know a person going through something and expressing themselves in whatever creative manner they choose, reach out. Life’s a bitch and then you die but friends are friends and you will miss them when they are gone.
I started this blog to appreciate artists while I could. Chester, I’m sorry it took me this long. I hope you find peace.
When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
Don’t resent me and, when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest
We are privileged to live in an age so grand. Life today is spectacular and this we take for granted. Sure, some of us claim that we were supposed to be born in the 50’s. Or 70’s music is where it’s at. That literature isn’t the same as it was with Hemingway and Fitzgerald. But I promise you that none of them could pull out their phone and call an Uber (or Taxify as we prefer these days). If you wanted to order food, you would literally need to go to a restaurant and get it there. It’s maddening, isn’t it?
Now, people conduct whole orchestra’s from the space of their bedrooms. If Mozart or Beethoven were born today, they would be on Soundcloud making fire beats. If you think about it though, we really don’t need them here. We already have Mr Lu, and boy aren’t his concerto’s amazing.
The phrase ‘musical expression’, if taken literally, means to express one’s self through music. Artists are at their most creative when they have something to express. Think of Eminem’s “Stan”. Or Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga”. These artists needed to put their thoughts and emotions out there. Sure, one of them got arrested for it, but they created something incredible in the process.
This project is Mr Lu through musical expression. Full Moons was an awakening and Outlet is his catharsis. We did an interview with him for his upcoming project and this is what he had to say:
1. I’m assuming you weren’t baptized Mr. Lu?
_Well, funny story about my name is that my dad used to call me Mr Lu instead of Luther. I never used to like it when he called me that (and him too) at that time. Kinda grew in me, I guess. 😂
2. What drove you to start producing?
_I was rapping way before I got into production. I honestly just love the whole process of making a song. Greats like George Benson, Roy Ayers, Fela, just to mention a few, they lead me to see things differently from the way they played keys to their drums and very distinct percussion wmd just generally my love for the music. I was always so inspired to work with sound and make music off anything. I dream to lead a Japanese orchestra one day. They’re amazing. (I have a song in my forthcoming tape inspired by that)
3. What was your first piece of gear?
_It was a Novation midi keyboard with 49 keys. Boii I was excited! I still have it to date. I also have an Akai MPD18, which is what I use for my drums.
4. What’s your current set up?
_We call it “The BlueRoom.” It’s in a secret location but you can sure bet there’s always fire brewing. 😉
4. Do you have a process? Or do you let the canvas do the painting?
_I pretty much usually go with how I feel at the moment. I always surprise myself.
5. Your top 5 producers of all time.
_Not in order!
Tyler The Creator, J.robb, Plainpat, Matt Martians & Kid Cudi!
6. Tell us about Slinkky.
_Slinkky is my rap alter ego. Originally I used to rap which is what led me to being a Producer. Slinkky is a name that came to me in high school, during physics class. The teacher was teaching on slinky springs so it caught on and stuck. I loved it.
7. When did you realize you were starting to blow? And has this changed you in any way?
_I can say 2016 is when I was really out there I began making beats ’round 2015. This year has already been so dope! Playlist 2 was a movie! Shout out Camille Storm for that one. Looking forward to the future. Grateful for the far I’ve come really. I can’t say I’ve changed but it has def opened many new doors for me.
8. It’s been almost a year since Full Moons. Any new projects in the works?
_I’m currently working on a tape called OUT(let) which is about just ‘letting it all out’. Kinda like a “vent” tape where different artists come together and articulate different stories. There’s something for everyone. I have personally also rapped in the project, bringing in some old songs with fire-er beats and a few remixes. I open up about a lot so, let’s cry together when it’s time to cry, lol. I had a good time making this all in all.
9. XPRSV Radio 002?
_I know I said this too many times but, it’s coming! From episode 2, everything will be smooth. New episodes gon’ be out every month oh.
10. What does the future look like for Mr. Lu?
_I don’t know for sure but I’m always ready for whatever comes my way. Call me a blender, cause you know, life gives you lemons and… (comedy kinda looks like a plan btw, lol!)
11. Other than music, what else do you do?
_I am a graphic designer. I take black tea, I have it all the time. I also kinda shoot and edit videos. I can make people laugh (and cry too).
I have a huje jazz collection (of samples I’ve used). Maybe one day I’ll throw that listening party where guys come dressed retro. (is it retro or retro?)
12. The glasses. Gimmick or medical condition?
_Incase you want to know anything about Gimmicks ask BNRD Mars. 😂 “Eye have eye problem.” (see what I did there?) I have both for my eye sight AND for gimmicks.
Images: Jones Waihenya; Chris Macharia
SZA (pronounced Sizza) is a normal girl and this is what makes her unique.
When we look at most female artists, we give them this dignified reverence. Lana Del Rey is the 50’s incarnate, Rihanna is queen and Beyonce, a deity. These artists live and exemplify this lifestyle. Rihanna walks out of her home and the world comes to a stop. Beyonce has twins and there’s a new royal family. We will love Lana when she’s no longer Young and Beautiful. These things are a given. But SZA? She’s perfectly ordinary.
That is my greatest fear
That if, if I lost control
Or did not have control, things would just, you know
I would be… fatal
On Supermodel (produced and co-written by Pharrell) she says:
I could be your supermodel if you believe
If you see it in me, see it in me, see it in me
SZA doesn’t want a Vogue cover. These aren’t the things to sate her insecurities. All she wants is for the person she loves and cares for to see her for what she could be. She’s been fucked with and left alone but all she needs is for that to be seen. It is painful and it is sad but it’s true.
In a way, aren’t we all like this? Our life’s achievements are never for the entire world. Just for the one person we do them for. When this one person doesn’t recognise them, then it hurts.
On Doves in the Wind, she wields her sexuality like a weapon. On his verse,Kendrick says:
We all know guys that have gone to extreme lengths for sex. At the same time, we know guys that disappear as soon as they get some. This isn’t cool and SZA doesn’t vibe with that. We should all be more like Forrest Gump, she says. Girls deserve the whole box of chocolates.
Again, all SZA wants is acceptance from the person she loves. On Drew Barrymore she gives us the best verse on the entire album:
I’m sorry I’m not more attractive
I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike
I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night
I’m sorry I’m not your baby mama
I’m sorry you got karma comin’ to you
Collect and soak in it right
Don’t change a thing SZA. He doesn’t deserve you anyway.
The Weekend is the reflection of relationships in the 21st century. Side chick is as common and acceptable a phrase as avocado toast.
You’re like 9 to 5, I’m the weekend is now the default Instagram caption for 2017.
On Broken Clocks, SZA summarises the entire album in a verse:
All I got is these broken clocks
I ain’t got no time
Just burning daylight
Still love and it’s still love, and it’s still love
It’s still love, still love (still lovin’), still love
It’s still love but it’s still love
Nothin’ but love for you (nothin’ but)
Nothin’ but love (nothin’ but)
Nothin’ but love
She knows she’s imperfect. She knows she has her flaws. This doesn’t stop her from loving and loving hard because despite everything this is the one thing she has. Pure unrequited unending love.
She gets cheated on. She’s insecure about her body and she doesn’t understand why anyone won’t love her.
SZA is us and we are SZA.
PS: In Supermodel she says:
Apparently she hadn’t already told her ex-boyfriend this. Does it get more savage?
Rated: 4.6 / 5
I heard this song, a song I haven’t heard since I was on the streets of San Andreas years ago. People say that rap is ultimately a form of poetry and I think this song is a clear example of that. I looked for breakdowns of it online to no avail and thus, here we have Ice Cube’s “It was a good day”: The analysis. It shall be split into three parts: The song, the story and it’s conclusion.
We see Ice Cube, the story teller, with a simple premise. What is a good day? By analysing this, I aim to find out if Ice Cube’s definition of a “good day” is an ideal, or a convoluted daydream.
Ten seconds into the song, it’s pretty obvious. The music itself feels calm. It seeps into one ear and out the other. It feels. It draws and pulls back. This, literally, could soundtrack a good day.
Ice Cube is a certified MC. People that judge him off his film career undervalue this tremendously. He wrote half of N.W.A’s seminal Straight Outta Compton. His debut album, after leaving N.W.A, was certified platinum two months in. Snoop Dogg named him in the top three rappers of all time (then again Snoop himself was number three). His skill as a rapper as undeniable.
First, listen to the song. Second, watch the video. Since you probably haven’t done any of these two things, I’ll break down the themes in the song highlighting what, Ice Cube believes, makes a good day.
Peace, in a conventional sense, refers to a state of democracy, financial stability, a lack of war. Ice Cube, at the time of the song, is a young adult. These issues, while being important, do not directly affect his life in South Central Los Angeles. Thus, the peace he refers to is literal. Quiet. Calm. Serenity. A good breakfast.
To Ice Cube, peace also refers to assurance. The life he lives isn’t 8 – 5. There is no distinct start nor distinct finish. His life is an unending game of Russian roulette. Will he be shot today? Or tomorrow? Peace to him is as simple as going back home alive.
This song is the 90’s equivalent of a daily vlog. If Ice Cube was an introvert, he’d shoot videos of his dog and tell us his thoughts on the new Attack on Titan episodes. However, what we can conclude from the song is that he is far from one. To him, meeting with friends is an essential part of a good day. He plays basketball with them, gambles at 12 in the morning, and they watching mindless television.
From a personal perspective, I never want to leave home because everything outside it is unfamiliar. Driving to the mall risks panic attacks, forgotten wallets and no money to pay parking. I’m still not one for Cheap Thrills.
From Ice Cube’s perspective, an adrenaline rush is the perfect espresso to start your day with. Being still brings to satisfaction. He drives drunk, runs an intersection, anything to get his blood pumping. Do I condone this? No. But to Ice Cube, this is an important part of a good day.
The underlying theme of this song is pride. Ice Cube never explicitly mentions it but inklings of it can be found throughout the song.
He wins money gambling. The joy doesn’t come from getting paid but besting his friends.
During a vivid, and if I may say articulately, described sexual encounter, Ice Cube makes it pretty clear of what he prides himself in.
That night he drives home crossfaded through the clear streets of LA. Be it hallucinatory or his ego projecting through, he sees this in the night sky:
Ice Cube is a certified gangsta. Not just a gangster. But a gangsta. He wouldn’t hesitate to kill anyone that got in his way. That’s the life he lives. But underneath all this gang rivalry and false bravado rappers use to reinforce their ego’s, Ice Cube is human. Violence is a necessary evil in his life. Not a source of pride and joy. As much as he prides himself in being the hardcore gangsta that he is, he still craves the normalcy that we all do.
In the briefest yet most iconic line of this song, he says:
The actual date is disputed. People say that Ice Cube’s good day was on January 20 1992, others argue it on November 30 1998. People have analysed this and speculated using every possible detail from the song. From the weather to what time Fatburger closes. But I think we’re missing the point here. The song isn’t supposed to be about some grand public holiday that we as rap fans can appreciate. The song is an ideal. It’s what Ice Cube inspired for a good day to is. In 2015, 23 years later, he tells us that the song isn’t a journal entry. It’s totally fictional. The life Ice Cube lived meant he had to use his AK everyday. Underneath it’s warm tones and catchy lines this is a song about the life Ice Cube wished he could live. And its as simple as hanging with his friends, playing basketball and being intimate with his girlfriend.
Does Ice Cube describe your idea of a good day?
Ps: After writing this I realized that something similar was talked about in the movie “Dope” so this it totally not plagiarism. Great movie, by the way.
Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine is about Ariana Grande. It’s sickly sweet and full of cliche’s that work endearingly well. It’s an album to make love too. Now, take the same basic concept. Remove the muse, add multiple muses. Remove “love” and replace it with every variation of the word “sex”. That’s the album to fuck to. Aptly titled, Memoirs of the Reaper.
Sex isn’t a topic unfamiliar to rap music. In fact, you could say it comes right beneath wealth and genitalia size in terms of popularity. However, the manner in which it is addressed is largely similar. The focus isn’t on the act but on the number of ‘conquests’. If you think about it though, that isn’t a big deal. Rappers are relatively well to do individuals and thus, in this cruel world of ours, can get as many sexual partners as they like. What’s special is when a rapper can make it seem. . well. . special.
On the song “Lost”, he raps about his main one in a meal of sides.
Lost in the daze but still I always end up close to you
“Nintendo King” is a song about a contrived, yet really interesting, version of Strip Mario. It’s weirder than it sounds:
For every game that’s lost, we going to make you take a bump
If you land on Bowser, then you take them panties off
If you land on Boo, better take that bra off
If you win the battle game, you can put it back on
But until then you gone have to keep it off
“Freak” is a millennial ode to one night stands. That being, with one person.
Not the girl of my dreams but my freak
“Protein Shake” is for every girl on that daily squat grind. It’s a change in tone. More appreciative of women in general as compared to one central figure.
You got that Kim K booty organic
You making way more money than these bastards
“Sex Message” is the ultimate culmination of all these songs. I swear sensuality has never been better expressed. I would quote the best lines but I’d have to write the entire song and I’d ruin it for all of you.
The album isn’t entirely about sex. There are multiple anime references (Sailor Moon!) and the production value is super clean. The sex part just happens to be the best part.
When I said “special” I didn’t mean any particularly romantic encounters. I meant intimacy that was different. Or expressed differently. That’s why I referenced Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine. He takes a central character and breaks them down piece by piece in ten songs. Azizi does the same thing but with fewer songs and more characters. Is it more romantic? No. Is it nastier? Yes.
Rated: 3.7 / 5
Some decades or so ago, playlists were special. There were no DM’s to slide into. No gawky 3am texts. No virtual L’s. You sat down and made a mixtape. A compilation of songs that you believe will convey an intended message. You like someone? Then let Stevie Wonder get it on. You’re horribly depressed and would like someone to know? The Cure would do fine. Someone got a whip and wants to flex on the way to the club? Then let Wu-Tang spot you. We should bring this back. Why? Read on.
Playlists have variety. You can make them as flexible as possible. Albums are journeys. They have intro’s and outro’s. They ebb and flow. Flicker and flame. Playlists take advantage of this. They don’t need to have a start and finish. It can be hype all the way through. You don’t have to put the whole of Future, just ‘mask off’. You don’t have to put all the (20) songs off Views, just ‘Grammy’.
At the same time, playlists can be journeys. They can plot out memories the same way a movie does. The song that was playing at Java when you walked up to her. The first song he told you he liked. Something off the soundtrack you heard the first time you Netflix and chilled. The road trip song that you both loved. The song you heard on your way home after the break up.
A playlist doesn’t have to be for someone else. It could be entirely yours. The songs that make you happy when your sad. The songs that make you sad when you’re already sad and want to keep spiraling further down. The songs that you play when you’re around people to seem cool. Your guilty pleasures. Top 40 hits. It’s all yours to decide.
Some standard playlist rules:
- Keep it short. No matter how much we love you we are not going to sit through 30 of your favourite songs.
- Genre shifts should be relativly stable. While hip hop and rnb mash relatively well there are limits.
- Personalize it. Give it a name. Change the album art. Make it uniquely you.
So today, make someone a playlist. It could be for your mum, your crush, an old friend, a new one, it’s entirely up to you. Just make sure it’s from the heart, and free from any Hannah Baker references.
P.s: I’ll make you one if you ask nicely.
Meka Mungai – Indie Girl ft Slinkky (prod Mr. Lu)
Lo-fi hip hop is angelic. It feels warm and flows beautifully. It isn’t a 6am church service or sanctification behind a metaphorical body and soul. No-one captures this like Mr. Lu does.
On their second collaboration, Meka and Mr. Lu take a step back and give us a glimpse into their creative mindset. Graced by Slinkyy’s mellow flow and lifted by Meka’s delicate touch, the concerted path of these artists continues. Please give us an EP.
Jessie Reyez – Blue Ribbon (prod. Tim Suby )
On it she warns:
But I’m cute if you don’t fuck around
I’m nice if you don’t fuck around
Whoever you are, you better be listening.
SZA – Love Galore ft. Travis Scott
SZA doesn’t just put out music. She gifts it to us. We are at her mercy. And with this present, it feels like Christmas.
The first lady of TDE, in conjunction with Travis Scott, give us unbridled honesty. Over an sober beat we’re given desperation and heartbreak. He left you. Stopped picking your calls. It wasn’t anything more than a summer fling. So in the end. Fuck him. You’re better than he is, and:
Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me?
Why you bother me when you know you got a woman?
You do you SZA. You do you.
Lou Phelps – What time is it ft. Innanet James (prod. Kaytranada)
Sampling is an art form. Its greatness, however, varies with time. 6 years ago, Otis Redding on the titular Watch the Throne “OTIS” was spectacular. Today, we don’t want familiarity. The more obscure the better. Listen to Kaytranada and I promise you shall jam whether or not you know who his sampling.
On this Lou Phelps fronted track, the funk hits hard. You don’t want to get up and move. Just bop your head and feel. Kaytra’s got you. And Lou makes certain of that.
Muthoni Drummer Queen – Kama Kawaida (manch!ld flip)
Local music is changing and leading this revolution is none other than the queen herself. By her side we have Kagwe, Mayonde and Fena Gitu. If any of these names are unfamiliar to you then keep up or get left behind.
The original track is delightfully catchy and is mastered perfectly, something our industry greatly needed. Manch!ld’s version, though, flips the entire song on its head. It’s hits but restrains itself masterfully. He took 2014 era trap, told it to sit down, and be humble. It’s a welcome reinterpretation of the song and we wouldn’t say no to more.
Here’s the complete playlist:
The best music is made by those that love it. For you to make something, and for it to be good, you have to appreciate what has come before. Appreciating it isn’t just having good taste. It’s using this taste to make something better. It isn’t copying someone’s homework and rephrasing everything they’ve said. It’s learning from them. Hiatus Kaiyote brings this out marvellously.
In 2011, Paul Bender (bassist of Hiatus Kaiyote) saw future lead singer, Nai Palm, perform at a concert in Melbourne. The two collaborated a year later after realising the brand of music they both wanted to make. After finding two more members (Perrin Moss and Simon Mavin), Hiatus Kaiyote emerged in all their Australian wonder.
Their music is termed as future soul. They themselves prefer “Multi-dimensional, Polyrhythmic gangster shit.” I pick the latter.
Their first album, Tawk Tomahawk, made waves. Everyone from Erykah Badu to Prince to Questlove was tweeting about it. In fact, in a later reissue, Q-tip did an entire verse. The band was then noticed by Salaam Remi, the former manager of Amy Winehouse. I mean, if each of these occurrences aren’t good omens then I don’t know what are.
Only with their second album, Choose your weapon, did the band hit their stride. Tawk Tomahawk was good, but it felt like the band was just getting to know each other. What they were comfortable with. Who they were drawing inspiration from. Who there target audience was. On Choose your weapon, they decided not to care. The album is an 18 song, 70 minute epic, compared to their debut which ran for 30 minutes. Here, they flex their creative muscles. We get everything from soaring bass lines to owl screeches. The album is ethereal. It’s beautiful. Untainted. Miraculous. Unabashedly celestial. They have no limits. Their music is a melting point of everything beautiful in music. Soul. Funk. Rhythm.
They’re the most underground mainstream band there is. Too few have actually heard of them, but they’re probably on your playlist right now. Anderson .Paak samples them on “Without you.” Nai Palm’s voice soars on Drake’s “Free smoke” and if this isn’t enough already they’re on Kendrick’s DAMN. This is the CV every artist clamours for.
When asked to explain what their name means, Nai Palm says:
“Kaiyote” is not a word. It’s a made up word, but it kind of sounds like peyote and coyote – it’s a word that involved the listeners creativity as to how they perceive it. So it reminds you of things but it’s nothing specific. When I looked it up on online it was like a bird appreciation society around the world, so for me that was a great omen, because I’m a bird lady. A hiatus is essentially a pause, it’s a moment in time. So, to me, a hiatus is taking a pause in your life to take in your surroundings, have a full panoramic view of your experiences and absorbing, and “kaiyote” is expressing them in a way involves the listeners creativity.
This sentiment explains their music just as well. You don’t look to their lyrics for meaning. You sit back and let them take you wherever you want to be taken. For me, this is my hangover music. My Sunny Sunday music. My background music. It can be the drug you need or the music you trip to.
They’ve given you the canvas. Now paint.
If To Pimp a Butterfly is an art gallery showcasing the plight of the African American, then ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ (AABA) is a bare-fisted, profanity riddled, tear gas filled protest.
To every soul that harkens to an age where hip hop was “real” and “pure”, Joey Bada$$ came like the messiah. Considering that his hometown, Brooklyn, gave us Jesus himself, Notorious B.I.G. To many, he came not to save our souls from immortal sin, but to put the rap back in hip hop.
B4.DA.$$ is an undeniable classic. Think about it. Like all classics: It was underrated for an unbelievably long time, it came from (at the time) a relatively unknown rapper and the production value is insane (J Dilla, Hit-boy, The Roots). If you think about albums that got the same treatment, you’d have Control System, Acid Rap, Too High to Riot, among many others. The question is, does the same apply to AABA?
Joey is as patriotic as it gets. This shines through in AABA. It’s a protest album in the strongest sense of the word. The system is rotten. You could lose your life if you look at an officer the wrong way. So, like Green Days American Idiot, he decided to do something about it.
If Brooklyn had a national anthem, it would be “Land of the Free”. If North America had a national anthem (which it does but I choose to ignore) it would be AABA. The album itself is masterful. Joey’s lyricism ebbs and flows beautifully, Kirk Knights beats hit hard and swift. Most of the tracks, surprisingly enough, feel like cuts off of Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Hard and legitimate rap music. Very reflective of 90’s hip hop, but not in a way thats pandering. As Kendrick once put it, in fact:
Everybody want to talk about who this and who that
Who the realest and who wack, or who white or who black
Critics want to mention that they miss when hip hop was rappin’
Motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mike’d be platinum
Some tracks don’t feel as cohesive as the rest of the album. “Devastated” for example. But, strangely enough, Joey justifies it. He says:
a lot of people were thrown off by the two smoke screens I put out before called “Devastated” and “Front and Center.” I like those records. But to me, they were more like bait music. People gotta understand, when you’re an artist, you got your core. Then I look at it like there is many rings around that. Like circles.
Does this make the album a classic? I honestly don’t know.
Does this make the album good? Most definitely.
Image: Album art
Rated: 4.2 / 5
We all listen to music in various ways. Few still buy CD’s. Vinyl’s are a thing again. Music streaming is at an all time high. And the pirates among us still sail the seas. If you’re still on that waptrick/tubidy vibe then much love to you as well. In the end, we’re all listening to the same music.
These days though, artists find other ways to put their music out there. The conventional single/album format is slowly being usurped. There’s something beautiful about it..
These days it isn’t uncommon for an artist to put out an entire album on youtube. However, this doesn’t do much for their publicity. Ed Sheeran could put out an entire album on Youtube (which he did) but if we didn’t know who he was then no-one would really care. So, artists find different ways to get their names out there, through Youtube. If you dig deep enough, there’s a treasure trove of amazing artistry that isn’t limited to music videos. Here are a select few:
i. BBC 1/ BBC 1Xtra
This is one of the more well known channels, but to the unfortunate few, you would not believe what you’ve discovered. When an artist releases an album, they tend to visit radio stations to build hype for it. BBC 1 took it a step further and gave these artists a platform to perform some of their songs. They call it the Live Lounge. And, as a bonus, they do covers as well. What’s better than mainstream artists covering other mainstream artists? Here are some of our favorites:
ii. Tiny Desk Concerts
Imagine if every week, your boss scheduled a performance for the office behind his desk. That’d be pretty cool yeah? Well, NPR did that. And they call it the Tiny Desk Concerts. Since the performances are literally behind a desk, artists are forced to be at their most minimal. This means you can’t have an entire backing choir. And, more often than not, the results are beautiful. And, at the same time, literally anyone can perform. Here are our favourites:
and, just for good measure:
if you aren’t convinced yet:
iii. Documentaries (The FADER & Noisey)
When you know about an artists life, you get a different perspective on their music. Wikipedia can only tell us so much. Thankfully, the FADER and Noisey have us covered on that front. They don’t do conventional interviews. Instead, they give us a glimpse into the day to day happenings of a musician. It could be through their tours, or a visit to their mothers home, or just a random trip to the supermarket. Here are our biased picks:
Here are some random picks that we thought you’d enjoy too:
and my personal favourite:
( featured image: the vinyl factory )