Silk Noise Reflex: James Tillman 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rated: 3.7 / 5

Freudian: Daniel Caesar

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.

You don’t love me anymore
Let’s see how you like this song

He still want to be loved though. He still wants it to all mean something.

Ever since the day that I met you
My world’s been spinning out of control
I just need you to hold

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.

 

Here’s a really nice piano cover. I hope it makes your day a little brighter:

 Image: Billboard

Rated: 4.4 /5

 

Good for you: Aminé

Anna Mae

Amino

Amen

Aminay

STFU

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.

rsz_amine

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rated: 4.1/ 5

Image: Pigeons and Planes

 

Lust For Life: Lana Del Rey

Is there such a thing as wasted love?

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart is soft, my past is rough

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Consequence of Sound

Rated: 3.7 / 5

Flower Boy: Tyler the Creator

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:

One, two, you’re the girl that I want
Three, four, five, six, seven, shit

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.

Wonder if you look both ways
When you cross my mind, I said, I said

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.

Lyrics: Genius

Rated: 4.2/ 5

Relaxer: Alt J 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuck you

I’ll do

Anything that I wanna do

Rated: 4.0 / 5 

An Introduction to NJOMZA 

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

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

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

Fuck these emotions, I don’t need them

People switch up like the seasons

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

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

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

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

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

Rated : 3.8 / 5

Ctrl: SZA

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:

Niggas’ll lose they mind for it
Wine for it, dine for it—pussy

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:

Let me tell you a secret
I been secretly banging your homeboy

Apparently she hadn’t already told her ex-boyfriend this. Does it get more savage?

Image: Hypebeast

Rated: 4.6 / 5

Colours 2: PARTYNEXTDOOR 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(Rated : 4.4 / 5) 

Memoirs of the Reaper: Azizi Gibson

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.

Pick one.

Rated: 3.7 / 5

Lyrics: Genius

 

Everybody: Logic

Life. What’s it all about?

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

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

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

Damn, my skin fair but life’s not

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Please make Childish spider-man.

Rated : 4.1 / 5 

 

001 Experiments: Lou Phelps 

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

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

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

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

Rated: 3.2 / 5

The Art of Making Playlists

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:

  1. Keep it short. No matter how much we love you we are not going to sit through 30 of your favourite songs.
  2. Genre shifts should be relativly stable. While hip hop and rnb mash relatively well there are limits.
  3. 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.

This Old Dog Went Rolling Home: Mac DeMarco 

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Rated: 3.2 / 5) 

ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$: Joey Bada$$

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.

In the land of the free, it’s full of free loaders

Leave us dead in the street to be their organ donors
They disorganized my people, made us all loners

Still got the last names of our slave owners

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

Free 6lack

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flow is crazy on ‘Never know.’

Yeah, nigga this flow is crazy

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

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

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

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

Here’s to being free.

Rated: 4.4 / 5

( Image : Album Art. Lyrics : Genius )

For The Love of Crate Digging: Pt II

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

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

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

YOUTUBE

i. Majestic Casual

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

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

 

 

 

 

ii. Nostalgic Jams

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

 

 

 

iii. Dynmk

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

 

 

 

iv. Mr. Suicide Sheep

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

 

SOUNDCLOUD

i. Soulection

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

 

ii. The Seventh Culture

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

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

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

 

American Teen: Khalid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: The Fader; Cover art

Lyrics: Genius

Rated: 3.3 / 5

 

Vibrations to send: Drake

Drake says that this isn’t an album. Neither is it a mixtape. Instead, he calls it a playlist. And this makes perfect sense.

When Views first came out, the reaction to it was pretty typical. Day 1: everyone was in awe because this is a Drake album and we don’t get very many of those, and Rihanna featured twice. After a while though, we all took off our rose tinted glasses. Views isn’t a bad album, not in the slightest. It just didn’t live up to the expectations we had for it. “Too good”, “Feel no ways” and “Child’s play” shall forever remain classics but for a 20 song tracklist there wasn’t much to it.

And this was the case because, plainly speaking, Drake was trying too hard. Nothing was the same was utterly brilliant, and coming off of that must have been difficult. He had two options. He could redo the same thing and get a good old Jhene feature or completely reinvent his sound at the risk of not appealing to the masses. He did both and this indecision is what did him in. Part of Drake’s charisma is how well he can flit from one genre to another. Have us gyrating to “Control”, crying to “Feel no ways” and trap to “Grammys”. But when you try and do this in one album, it doesn’t come off, well, “Too good.”

Drake wrote this accompaniment to More Life:

FullSizeRender

This is Drake’s philosophy throughout the playlistViews was about proving his versatility More Life is proving his fluidity. Here, it isn’t about sick flows or hard bars. That isn’t the goal. We don’t have a lot of time on this wretched planet so we need to squeeze the life out of every moment. Collaborate with everyone. Fake a South London accent. Sample a damn recorder! More Life is a good time. I feel like Drake called all his friends and put a performance for us. It feels like Drake left all his regrets and worries behind and just had fun.

The songs themselves are no holds barred. Not like sick freestyles or massive beats. Just laid back music someone wrote on a Sunday afternoon. We have “Free Smoke” which samples the ethereal Hiatus Kaiyote and throws more subliminal shots at Kid Cudi. There’s “Passionfruit” which takes tropical house, flips it on its head, and reminds you that “Shape of you” isn’t the end of the genre. “Get it together” brings long-deserved attention to the South African legend that is Black Coffee. All the Giggs features are sewage grimy and I still can’t believe that he sampled a recorder on “Portland”.

“Madiba Riddim” would have to be my favourite. I feel like its the antithesis to “Controlla”. On a dance floor, “Controlla” is bodies gyrating, sweat flowing and sin pumping. “Madiba Riddim” is drunken laughter, bodies close but not touching, happiness pure and untainted. Like I said, this album is a genuine good time. Being a Drake album, the trap obviously has to come through. On “Sacrifices” we have a coherent Young Thug, “Kmt” has Drake on his xxxtentation flow, “Gyalchester” is What a time to be alive nostalgia.

More Life isn’t perfect. It’s too long; some of the features feel more gratuitous that necessary; the Kanye feature isn’t all that. But this isn’t an album and, thus, shouldn’t be analysed as one. It’s a playlist. Playlists tend to be too long, have songs you definitely won’t like but still find a way to accommodate for everyone.

Life is too short to not do the things you would like to do. And, should someone come collecting, at least we can say that Drake lived the life he wanted.

Rating: 3.7 / 5

 

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 )