For Lack of a Better Playlist | 002

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 )

The bipolar Alexia Cara. Straight up crazy on “Shutter Island“. Heart-wrenching on “Figures“. And now, bass-shattering on “Blue Ribbon”.

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:

 

 

 

An Introduction to Hiatus Kaiyote

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.

 

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 )

 

For the Love of Crate Digging: Pt I

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..

Youtube

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:

 

Or:

 

And:

 

 

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:

 

or:

 

or:

 

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:

 

or:

 

and:

 

 

iv. Others

Here are some random picks that we thought you’d enjoy too:

 

and my personal favourite:

 

 ( featured image: the vinyl factory )

American Teen: Khalid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: The Fader; Cover art

Lyrics: Genius

Rated: 3.3 / 5

 

For Lack of a Better Playlist | 001

  1. 3WW- Alt-J

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

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

I just want to love you in my own language.


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

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

2. Chorea – Huzuni 窪地 ⏏

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

3. Passionfruit – Drake

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

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

 

4. Take your time- Meka Mungai ft. Taio

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

There are countless scores of beauty

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

5. Fools – TylerCole and Wilough

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

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

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

 

Music and its place in my life

This article is extremely introspective so if that isn’t your jam then check out the rest of our wonderful, much more objective, topics on music.

3 – 5 a.m.

For 3 years of my life, this is when I’d listen to music. In high school, when every snippet of free time was treasure, this was my catharsis. Back then I didn’t have the convenience of an Apple Music subscription or unlimited wifi connectivity. Every week I would, through some way or form, access 350 mb bundles . These were my salvation. Youtube? Nope. Movies? Not really. But music, all the damn way. The pirate bay never had a customer as loyal as me. Every week, with the same limited internet connectivity, I’d scroll through archives of Pitchforks reviews to find what I would be listening to this week. Hate on Pitchfork all you may, but they gave me Because the Internet and I don’t take that lightly. My music exploration was extreme. I was on everything from Bring Me The Horizon to MF DOOM. From Abbey Road to Racine Carrée.

Present day

I don’t have a set time to listen to music. I don’t have two hours in my day that I can allocate to this sole purpose. Or, much rather, I haven’t allocated two hours in my day to music. Has life become busier than it was before? Not in the slightest. I could easily do this but I just haven’t. Now, I have more resources than I’ve ever had before. 350mb is my internet usage in a day. But it doesn’t mean I listen to more music and this I find horribly tragic.

My reasons are fickle. I’m always with other people. In fact, I have playlists on my phone tailored to the people that I may be with that day. Pop for the prep-school girls, trap for the OG’s, afrobeat for the alcoholics and so on and so forth. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy these genres but rather that I’m not listening to these artists or albums for genuine reasons. It’s begrudgingly accommodating for others. It wasn’t always like this. Before, it was like: if you didn’t fuck with my music, leave. Now I’m like a bartender at a music club, serving requests back and forth.

On some days I find clarity. It could be a moment, a person or an album.  When the sky is dark and all I want to listen to is The Dark Side of the Moon. When I meet a person with a genuine appreciation of music and I can play music I actually want to listen to. When I’m on Soundcloud and I find that one gem that I can hold tight. When I first heard Anderson .Paak and Noname. In a sense, I started this blog to pursue that clarity. Writing about music forces you to become more acquainted with the album, the artist and their contemporaries. It makes work of a hobby. It crystallizes this clarity. And I think I’m achieving that. But I’m still a long way off.

So thank you to my loyal readers.

My day ones.

You are the reason I do this.

You are my greater appreciation of music.