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 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 )

No Ad Libs: Barak Jacuzzi

Produced by Brakxx. Contrary to the title, Barak Jacuzzi does have an ad-lib: “More Juice.” And true to its spirit, this track is 100% juice. Not diluted. Juice from the cup.

The young Kenyan-American entertainer put on his rap hat, pulled up and took his seat. Not asking. Taking.

‘No Ad Libs’ stirs up sensations of basement parties. LED lights. Sweat and hype and molly fueled energy. He noticed you sleeping on him and decided to do you a favour and wake you up. The bass will hit you first. You won’t see it coming.

The tribal elements of the track and the drill trap style of the song complement each other generously and every now and then his tongue dips into Kenyan Sheng in a manner that may just put it in the same league of street lingo cool as Jamaican Patois.

He carries an A$AP Rocky-esque self confidence that somehow, for reasons yet to be understood, does not spill over into arrogant braggadocio though it lingers rather close sometimes. You get this feeling like he knows he was sent to earth by gods to bless us with the message of ‘More Juice’ and bars rare to this turf.

He throws shade to his rivals in the rap industry, like writing their incompetence with swift steady hand, i.e: He writes his curses in cursive.

You couldn’t make a crowd jump if your name was Kriss Kross

Unfortunately for now, the video has been pulled off of Youtube due to a copyright claim by the producer, Brakxx Beats Africa. But you can listen to it here.

Or here.

 

Rating: 3.5 / 5

( image: kenyans.co.ke )

Sweet. Sexy. Savage: Kehlani

Produced by Jahaan Sweet, Pop & Oak, and Charlie Heat among others, Sweetsexysavage is the posterchild for the multi-dimensional woman. Independent. Confident. Insecure. Selfish. Pretty. Needy. Kehlani. She attempts to rid us of the notion that a female must only be one thing at a given time. A tattoo splattered tomboy sometimes vixen, other times angelic. Kehlani herself is a walking contradiction.

More inadvertently sweet than anything, Kehlani pays homage to the 90’s with an album that conjures up nostalgic thoughts of Aaliyah and Brandy. A dash of SWV. Traditionally constructed in a way that just goes to show you how much of an old school kid Kehlani really is.

She sprinkles that reluctant sweet in ‘In my feelings’:A song about an exasperated girl, grappling with her emotions and trying to understand why she feels more than the other people: an upbeat track with downbeat lyrics. And in the vulnerable Spanish guitar of the ballad ‘Hold me by the heart’ where she drops her guard and humbly asks for a bit of patience.

She turns on the sexy in ‘Piece of mind’ ,a cathartic bonfire sing-along and an ode to better decisions, showing us how sexy self-confidence can be.

She drops the savage in ‘Distraction’, bluntly expressing how little time she has for a serious relationship, all she’s looking for is someone to take her mind off of things for a little while.

Bravery is feeling fear but doing the thing anyway. Kehlani’s background is that of a person that has been tenacious on her come up despite the fact that life did not make things particularly easy for her- from shoplifting food from grocery stores to stuffing two mixtapes and an album in her back pocket. She’s the closest she’s ever been to her dreams, and she’s grateful. The carefree woman. Master of her fate.Captain of her soul.

kehlani-sweet-sexy-savage-artwork

Rated: 3.4 / 5

 

Image : Blavity; Album art

An Inch from Stardom: Big Sean

To succeed in hip hop, like in literature, you need a defining album. Chimamanda had Purple Hibiscus, George Orwell had Animal Farm, and F.Scott Fitzgerald had The Great Gatsby. Is I Decided Big Sean’s masterpiece?

Big Sean has been signed to G.O.O.D music for the last ten years (Doesn’t it make you realise how old you really are?) “Marvin and Chardonnay” came out six years ago. “Beware” came out four years ago. “I Don’t Fuck with you” came out three years ago. This is a vicious cycle that Big Sean is trapped in. Every so often he has a string of brilliant singles that fill the airwaves for months (aren’t you tired of “Moves” already?) and after his album comes out, he fades back into obscurity.

This isn’t to say that Big Sean is a bad rapper. He certainly doesn’t break any top ten lists but his lyricism is occasionally great (See: “Halfway off the Balcony”, “Jump Out the Window”). Plus, his work with Jhené Aiko (See:Twenty88) is remarkably good. The main problem is that he doesn’t have a defining album yet. He doesn’t have that one album that makes an artist great. It’s the album that brings to light how good your music may actually be. For some artists, their debut happens to be their defining album, Kanye’s College Dropout for example. For others, it may come much later in their discography, Anderson .Paak’s Malibu, for example. A defining album doesn’t just make a rapper great. It allows us to forgive them for any musical transgressions they may commit in future. Drake gave us Nothing was the same and for that we’re willing to forgive Views.

A defining album doesn’t even have to be extremely spectacular. Logic’s Under Pressure is a pretty good album, but it isn’t critically acclaimed. Regardless, without it we wouldn’t know about the many other excellent mixtapes he’s put out. Without Good kid, m.a.a.d city we wouldn’t know about Section.80.  Without Coloring Book, many of us wouldn’t know about Acid Rap.

I decided. isn’t going to be Big Sean’s The Blueprint. While this may be unfortunate, once we have Sean’s defining album, I feel like we will appreciate his music much much more. Besides, he has Jhené. What more do you ask from life?

Favourite Tracks:”Light”, “Jump Out the Window”, “Owe me”, “Halfway Off the Balcony”, “Bigger than me”.

i-decided

Rated: 3.2/ 5 

Image: The Early Registration

 

Yes Lawd!: Anderson .Paak / Knxwledge

Anderson .Paak is winning. In 2016 he got his big break. He released his debut album Malibu. He signed with Dre. Everyone wants a piece of him now, he knows this. Malibu and Venice were two very mature projects, bending and winding into the complex themes of Anderson .Paak’s life. Therefore, he deserves a little fun. As a result, we have Yes Lawd! 

With his candy paint smooth voice and Knxwledge on production, Nxworries may arguably be the smoothest duo of 2017. Signed to the iconic Stones Throw Records that has housed the likes of Madlib, MF Doom and J Dilla. Iconic producers in their own right. 

‘Suede’ being the first single to push the project, Anderson .Paak addresses the various girls who want to “ride in his car” (catch the innuendo). He differentiates the “tricks” from the bitches, and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Gotta whole lot of women, all of them with it
Yes Lord!

The question here is: Is Anderson .Paak sexist or are his pimp genes too strong?

And as long as you don’t call after 6
Then there won’t be any problem

Geez, that’s cold man.

A recurring theme in .Paak’s lyrics is his difficulty of choice between commitment and dishing free loving. He asks the girls to come through in ‘Link up’ where he proceeds to pied piper them back to his place. However, In ‘Sidepiece’ he croons his devotion to one woman, for whom he would gladly give up everyone else for.

The feels take over rationality in ‘Starlite’: he’s in the process of breaking up with her when their song plays and he asks her to fuck everything he’s just said, and stay the night.

Hey, got damn, bitch, they playing our song
I wanna stay with you all night long
Forget every single word I’ve said, I was dead wrong

Before I go any further, you have to remember that this is an Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge album. While the mainstream public is generally familiar with Anderson .Paak by now, they aren’t as privileged when it comes to Knxwledge.

One thing you should know is that his first release was in 2010 and since then he has released about 80 albums and EPs, establishing himself as a legend, in a little under 7 years. If that isn’t hard work I don’t know what is.

Knxwledge is the background calm to .Paak’s hyper charisma. If their music was a club: Anderson would be wilding out at the centre of the dancefloor and Knxwledge would be standing at the back, bobbing his head, vibing to the music and smoking a blunt.

His production really shines in ‘Kutless’ and ‘Can’t Stop’, particularly from the 00:40 mark. Both sound like raw honey tastes, with Knxwledge’s snazzy loops: perfectly sliced and placed samples, as his signature.  80’s nostalgia is prevalent with that jamming Yamaha DX7 synth sound in ‘Scared Money’. Maybe .Paak singing over the first track from Knxwledge’s 2013 album Kauliflowr on ‘Wngs’ can prove to you just how great of a stand-alone artist Knxwledge is, and when fused together with another great artist, magic ensues.

Bless Lawd for this collaboration.

Rated: 3.9 / 5

Image: Consequence of Sound

Lyrics: Genius