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 )