Honorable Albums of 2017
These are featured projects that were not covered in detail on Indigo, but were great projects of the year that deserve a listen. #FreeTheMusic
Honorable Albums of 2017
These are featured projects that were not covered in detail on Indigo, but were great projects of the year that deserve a listen. #FreeTheMusic
On November 17, Cyhi the Prynce dropped his official first album No Dope on Sundays. After giving us fire freestyles (fast forward to 2:31) for over half a decade we finally get the polished version of this crazy flow on this album, which doesn’t disappoint.
No Dope on Sundays is the perfect statue to display all of the skills Cyhi gave us over time. On Everyday Struggle, he talked about his journey as an upcoming emcee in the game and mentioned writing for most of the G.O.O.D. Music camp over time (including a percentage of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). He made sure to keep stride on this album as he gave us undeniable bars intertwined with relevant conceptual rap. Most of the content on the album are about his stories of how he had to maneuver through life’s turbulence to make it to the top; stories filled with the piercing truth about making right and wrong decisions on his journey to success. Other content includes his thinking as a black man in corporate America. On “Nu Africa” he talked about his conspiracy of what Africa would look like if African Americans left the United States to re-acclimate there. Including the possibilities of our favorite black moguls going there to start their business in result of the culture being less accepted in America makes the song intriguing. Not to mention that it slaps over the most classic hip hop sound.
Most of the beats on the album are timeless samples that fit perfectly around his intricate flow. On “Don’t Know Why”, he sampled “Pain” by 2pac and did it premium justice with the fire Jagged Edge feature (let’s not act like “Let’s Get Married” isn’t a classic). He continued his beat selection with sampling “I Love the Dough” by Notorious B.I.G on his song “Closer” where he vented about his gratitude after living through the trenches in coming up.
After peeping the features on here, it is safe to say that Cyhi is heavily respected in the music industry. The features range from popular contemporary artists to well known classic artists. Some of the most dynamic features on the album come from 2 Chainz, Travis Scott, Kanye West, and BJ the Chicago Kid.
My favorite songs on the album are “Trick Me” feat. 2 Chainz, “Don’t Know Why”, “Nu Africa”, and “Closer”. Overall this album is one of the best hip hop albums to hit the streams this year. Cyhi did a dope job with giving us content both sonically and lyrically while keeping our attention. This is a great starting album for him because of the unanimous raised eyebrows it gives people in the room when this comes on. Salute!
Check out Cyhi the Prynce's freestyle on LA Leakers
On October 27, Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T released his album 4eva is A Mighty Long Time. This is KRITs first album as an independent artist after recently being released from Def Jam. On this new project, KRIT constructed the whole album by himself. In recent interviews with The Breakfast Club and Everyday Struggle, he talked about producing the entire album and giving it to the fans exactly how he wanted. After claiming to have limited freedom with his last situation, this album is a more polished version of his last album Cadillactica.
The bulk of the album sounds like classic southern music. With the deep bass, jazz sounds and heavy 808s, this album is the blueprint to a classic country rap album. KRIT even dropped a few smooth R&B features on songs like “1999” and “Higher Calling”. In addition to doing songs with Lloyd and Jill Scott, KRIT had a handful of classic features to lace this album including: Ceelo, Bun B, T.I., Bilal and more. Having these OG features on the album gives it an older feel under the modern rap style that KRIT brings to the table, creating his version of a masterpiece.
Although the beats and the savvy lyricism are enough to carry this as a great album, that isn’t even the catch of the project. KRIT broke this album into two pieces: songs from a rapper, Big KRIT & songs from the personal view as Justin Scott (K.R.I.T.’s real name). On the first half (disc) of the album, he gave us his typical rap perspective with trap funk sounding songs. On songs like “1999”, “Aux Cord” and “Big Bank”, KRIT gave us his regular heat with slapping beats and bars about southern culture. On the second half (disc) of the album, KRIT took a more introspective approach. He talked about more personal struggles that he has been going through in real life as Justin Scott. On the “Price of Fame” he talked about the depression that comes with being famous. On “Drinking Sessions” he spit about how this in detail, explaining how he was unappreciated at Def Jam and in the rap game as a whole.
Overall KRIT was able to reinvent a new version of his older albums while being the most transparent as a person. This two sided album is definitely a stand out in the year and will be held as one of his better albums. My favorites on the album are: “1999”, “Price of Fame”, “Aux Cord” and “Bury Me In Gold”.
On October 13, R&B duo dvsn released their second album called Morning After. After coming off an astounding debut album in Sept. 5th, this album was highly anticipated by everyone who knows what they are capable of. Although the first album was a great album, it was lightly criticized for the inconsistent flow of it. Many critics state that the previous album was choppy and not as easy to listen to through it's entirety. With those opinions over their head, dvsn made sure to clear those comments with this new album. Morning After is much more of a well rounded album where each song can stand out in its own right.
The album is 90% produced by Nineteen85 who is 1/2 of dvsn. The other half is the vocals of Toronto singer Daniel Daley. Together the two made an album that has variety and togetherness. From songs like "P.O.V." with the soulful Maxwell sample to the song "Morning After" with the upbeat dance vibe, dvsn fed us with a few different energies. However with all of these different variations, the album still fell under the house of R&B - "Claim" & "Think About Me" made sure to make that staple for us. With that being said, this album is the perfect project to listen to with your boo at any given time.
On the flip side, one thing that could hinder them from success is their level of visibility. Being signed under OVO, it is almost guaranteed that their image will be hidden like many of the other artists. However it may be hard for them to remain relevant without being seen in a visual world. On the other hand, this tactic has worked for them so far and that brings upon the question of true longevity in moving this way.
If dvsn is able to solidify an original sound then they may be able to achieve 10+ years in the music game. Only time will tell, but in the meantime let’s enjoy another dope album from 2017. My favorite songs on the album are "Claim", "P.O.V." and "Don’t Choose".
On September 22, Rapsody released her sophomore album Laila’s Wisdom under Roc Nation. In this album she for sure showed us that she is able to hold her own amongst anyone in the game right now when it comes to bars. The technicality and complexity of her rapping style is proven to be one of the sharpest amongst many of her rap contemporaries. Although it may be easy to place her in the conversation of comparing female rappers, but she easily competes with some of our favorite male rappers as well.
The content on the album comes from all over the place. Throughout the album she’s mainly opening Pandora’s Box on the state of society and talks about how she sees herself compared to everyone else in the rap game. With her confidence on an all time high, she spits the truth about society idolizing social media, being black in America and overpraising materialistic things. Even in the midst of her hitting us with the facts, she still managed to give us tender content with relationship talk over RHYMES. Often on the album, after you get lost in thinking about the visceral points that she talks about, she hits you over the head with elements of a love story.
Lying next to the content on the album there is lively production. Mainly produced by 9th Wonder, the album is a display of foundational hip hop. Many different variations of the genre are held in this project from raw hip hop to sounds of old school funk. Based off the mixing and the live instrumentation, some songs on the album give the vibe of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly - especially on the song “Power” featuring King Kunta himself. The features on the album for sure stand out as well and carries the album even further. Most of the features on the album have proven themselves to be great artists through their work. Some of them even Grammy nominated for their work, including Anderson Paak, Terrace Martin, and Black Thought. Amongst these highly proved artist, Rapsody held her own in dishing out bars throughout this project. Salute!
'She see money all around me, I look like I'm the man'
Last week on October 13, Brent Faiyaz released his debut album, Sonder Son. Brent is most popular for his fire hook on “Crew” released by Goldlink, that we blasted all Summer. In this album he was able to showcase his writing skills by telling us stories about his adolescence and early adulthood.
In "Gang Over Luv" he talked about his trails and roads that he went through growing up in Baltimore. Talks about school, growing pains and relationships made for an inspirational story in his music. As the album progressed, more stories revealed themselves under this pen. More mature conversation arose about the struggles of making it in America - more specifically as a music artist. On "L.A." and "Stay Down" he talked about the pros and cons of living in such a popular city as Los Angeles as an artist.
In between the depths of his pen as a writer, he was able to give us many elements of pure R&B musically as well. Some songs on the album reminded me of classic Frank Ocean and even Aaliyah + Timbaland collabs in the 90s. With his unique soft tone in R&B its easy for him to fit into the old school R&B sound. This tone in parallel to the production on the album is what makes this album stand out.
Sonically the album holds two dimensions of acoustic sounds and hip hop sampled music which gives it a great range in appeal. The best example of this is the transition from the "Burn One" interlude to "First World Problemz" and how the two vibes switched from night to day, but held the same message. Overall this album is a further contribution to all of the great R&B that has came out this year.
On August 25, 2017, upcoming Toronto artist Daniel Caesar released his debut album titled Freudian. This album held "Get You", a undeniably fire R&B song that dropped earlier this year - potentially the R&B song of the year 👀 After nearly dropping this album with no promo and a mysterious profile, he made sure to make a name for himself and shake up the R&B game right now with this project - showing us that he has the talent to be in conversation for a while.
Overall the album is crafted and treated as a entire piece of artwork. With all of the songs flowing together it is easy to float from beginning to end quickly. With that being said, this album is more about vibes than songs. You often will get caught up in different situations and energies throughout the album that connects the music in a spiritual way. Hence Daniel Caesar admitting that he received a lot of his songwriting inspiration from gospel music in a recent interview. Though he wasn't singing about the Messiah, he definitely connected thru other heavy content. The main substance on this album is about the essence of love and relationships. However unlike many R&B artists, Daniel Caesar touched on all elements that are tied to love and not just the beauty of it all; ranging from the mourning to the gratefulness to the regret of relationships, he graced it all in the most believable way.
In between these bars about life, the sonics on the album are serious too. On the intro of the album, the project starts off with "Get You" that has a uniquely dense vibe that will hold your attention thru the entire song. While later in the album he incorporated a variety of different guitar solos and some of the most clever bridges I've heard - an example would be on "Take Me Away" featuring Syd, and "Transform" featuring Charlotte Day Wilson.
Overall this album is a project that will still be good after plenty of listens and will age well over time. This is a great debut release by Daniel Caesar, especially given the fact that male R&B is diminishing in the music world overall. Some of my favorite songs on this album are Get You, Take Me Away & Transform.
On June 30th, Calvin Harris, a Scottish DJ and producer released his fifth album called Funk Wave Bounces Vol. 1. After releasing "Slide" with Frank Ocean & Migos earlier this year to kick off summer vibes, Calvin Harris hasn't let up. In the midst of that song arguably becoming the song of the summer, Calvin released this masterpiece of an album under a complete new vibe and genre tied to hip hop.
The entire feel of the album comes from a blend of the pop and hip hop genres. A mix of house music, disco, funk and R&B all under one house of creativity and music. Calvin did a great job in mixing big names from each culture to give this a true authentic feel. Names like John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Frank Ocean, Snoop Dogg, Ariana Grande and Future reveal themselves in this album. Although these names are growing to be prominent names in music culture, the features are not the most impressive thing about this album.
One of the wildest things about this album is the way that Calvin Harris used the features to curate these songs on this 10-track album. Most of the songs on here have artists with complete different sounds working with each other. For example on "Cash Out": ScHoolboy Q stepped outside his lane to collab with PARTYNEXTDOOR, and D.R.A.M. on this funk vibe to make a song about flexing and living lavish. Harris followed that up with the song "Heatstroke" where he put Young Thug, Pharrell and Ariana Grande on the same track. In this song, Young Thug exercised more of his creativity by lacing this track with his sound successfully over this dance track. Looking deeper into the strategy of these songs, most of the songs are featured by veteran artist + new artist, giving balance to the overall sound for it to appeal to various audiences.
Overall this is a great album to play in the summer or in situations where a party of people is present. My favorite songs on this album are: Rollin', Prayers Up, and Slide. Listen to this album and fall into a whole new vibe.
Last year on October 27th, Chicago artist Saba released his debut album called The Bucket List. Saba debuted in fellow Chicagoan artist Chance the Rapper's mixtape Acid Rap on "Everybody's Something" in 2013. Since then he has been working with other successful artists from the area that accent his sound, including Noname and Twista.
The energy on this album comes from many different cloths as he gives us a range of elements in hip hop and rap. With that being said, this diverse music perspective along with the production almost suggests this album stepping outside of the hip hop genre in a way. Alongside the sound of the album, Saba made sure to give us introspective bars too. Most of his content stems from his experiences from living in Chicago, and focusing on manifesting his true dreams of being highly successful.
The true center of the album is the ideology of living your life to the fullest and becoming who you want to become - hence is why it's called The Bucket List to encourage people to accomplish all of their goals. This was the perfect angle for him to approach because of who he is in the game right now. This title and angle provides introspective for fans given that he is not the most popular artist. This suggests that he is humble and is focused on living his life rather than impressing the rap culture and being the "best in the game" right now. This is impressive because of the fact that he's an upcoming artist from Chicago where the music culture (especially hip-hop) is really competitive. Having said that, you can tell that Saba is heavily respected by many great artists from Chicago through this special album.
Throughout the album, voices like Lupe Fiasco, Noname, and Chance the Rapper appear to add more depth to this point of living a full life. Next to the features on the album, you can hear Chicago's musical influence on the album overall. Saba fits right in with many legendary artists from Chicago with his "ahead of my time" flow and musical genius on this album throughout it. Thoughtful bars about growing up in the depths of Chicago always seem to be a popular topic in hip hop. Ask Kanye, Common, Lupe, or Chance (just to name a few).
My favorite songs on the album are "Westside Bound 3", "The Billy Williams Story", "Bucket List" and "World In My Hands".
"Right on Time"
'Y'all think its boujie, I'm like it's fine / I'm tryna give y'all a billion dollars worth of game for $9.99' - Hov
This being only one of the bars that speak to what this album is all about. On June 30, JAY-Z released his 13th album 4:44 exclusively via Tidal. Somehow on this new album, Jigga was able to reinvent himself again with another direction in content. The first element about the album that immediately stands out is the production. The production and sound on the album was strictly done by No I.D (who executively produced the album). In the past No I.D. has been known to work with Kanye West, Nas, Big Sean, Ed Sheeran, Rihanna and more star artists. On this album though, him and Jay decide to go a different direction with their sound, and pay homage to a list of timeless music. Every song on 4:44 was a sample of another notable song from the past. From the sample of Stevie Wonder's "Love's in Need of Love Today" on "Smile", to the sample of "Fu-Gee-La" by The Fugees on "Moonlight", Jay touches sounds from many great eras in the history of black music. This being genius because of the rap content that compliments this idea.
The rap gems on this album are wrapped around the idea of black excellence and positively influencing black culture. The album starts early with "The Story of OJ" where Hov talks about the importance of being financially free while being conscious of the black history in America. Throughout the rest of the album, Jay continues to circle around this idea and encouraging black people to become more independent while chasing their dreams, specifically within the music industry. Next to the business Jay, he was able to apply some humor and wit throughout the album of course. Although we never see Hov engaging in media, he made sure that we knew he was still in tact with the world's shenanigans and hasn't missed a beat. In "Family Feud" Hov referred to Al Sharpton's selfies and Bill Cosby's women situation in bars back-to-back. In "The Story of OJ" he spoke to the trend of rappers posing on social media with money trying to flex, while reminding them that is never the way to do it. In "Bam", Jay talked about not hitting leg day after being cooked online for having skinny legs in recent years.
Throughout all of the game given on these tracks, the true crux of the album was the track "4:44", which may have been Jay's most personal song ever. In this album titled song, JAY-Z took the time to address his previous mistakes made in his relationship. After the release of Lemonade in early 2016, a lot of issues within his famous relationship were brought to surface but he made sure to right his wrongs with this track. This song, he says, came to him at 4:44am one morning and is generally about how he does not deserve his wife and is trying to doing right by their relationship in the future. In this song he apologizes 13x over a sample of a song called "Late Nights and Heartbreak" by Hannah Williams, that starts off with: "Do I find it so hard / When I know in my heart / I'm letting you down everyday / letting you down everyday / why do I keep running away?". This continues to speak further on how Jay have tried to make his wife happy after years of failure. However, this song suggests a new beginning for them both.
Overall it goes without saying that this may be an instant classic based off it's impact on the culture, enlightening content, and it's 'straight to the point' feel in duration. Ultimately the question is: Where will this rank in Jay's collection? After 13 albums, Hov is the only rapper who can still go Platinum in 5 days. Thats nuts; Salute!
My favorite moments on 4:44 are "The Story of OJ", "Family Feud" with the rough Beyonce vocals, "Smile" with the Stevie Wonder sample, and "Moonlight" with the most clever hook ever.
Meet Ella Mai.
Ella Mai is an upcoming R&B singer from London, England. At the age of 12, she moved to New York and later debuting on the X Factor (11th Season) with her singing group "Arize". After being eliminated in the initial auditions, she continued to grind towards her dream and later becoming manifesting it. After uploading Instagram videos to the internet of her singing covers to popular songs, she was discovered by DJ Mustard and signed to his 10 Summers record label. DJ Mustard is mainly known to be affiliated with YG, Ty Dolla $ign, and Big Sean as of late. Since her signing and enhancement as an artist, she released three projects since 2016: Time, Change, & Ready. On these projects she displayed her distinct voice all while staying true to her London roots. The main content on these projects stem from loving relationships, and the highs and lows that come with them. Through effortless vocal ability and a banging switch in melody, Ella Mai may be stapling her name in the game for at least the next couple of years. Not even to mention that most of her music is being produced by one of the best producers in the game: "Mustard on the Beat!" A few of my favorites from her current discography are "Boo'd Up", "Down", & "Dont Want You". Listen to some of these bangers below.
Watch Ella Mai's breakdown of her song "10,000 Hours" on Genius below and found out her true meaning to the song. Also watch a clip of a song cover that she posted on Instagram to begin her success.
"Ctrl + Alt + Release"
On June 9th, soul artist SZA released her debut album called Ctrl (pronounced as 'control'). This moderately short project contains 14 solid tracks that get straight to the point of a new and polished SZA for the culture. After going on a three year hiatus since her last project Z, SZA arguably grew into the most anticipated artist within Top Dawg Entertainment. With that being said, she made sure to come back into the game with an slightly different perspective on her music.
Throughout Ctrl she gave he us an enhanced sound through better production, and deeper content about her true life. The album sounds off with a very dramatic, yet organic intro in "Supermodel". With raw drums and a simple bass layer she laces the song with crazy vocal melodies and some sensitive content. Throughout the rest of the album she planned to keep that same level of honesty. On songs like "Garden (Say It Like Dat)" she talked about her imperfections and her acceptance in that; while on "Anything" she sings about her dangerous love for someone. She dug deeper into her complex situationships on "The Weekend" that gives the most soulful/90's R&B sound on the album.
A lot of the tone of the album reminds me of the tone that Khelani has used in her most recent music. On songs like "Normal Girl" and "20 Something", you can hear SZA express herself in that same right as the sounds on SweetSexySavage. SZA even expressed in a Complex interview that she really appreciates Khelani's music and how she recognizes her as one of the best female artists in the game right now. In the midst of this revealing content that she gives us, she kills the album vocally as well. Through a range of different cadences and a switch through different flows, she keeps the project both interesting and unpredictable. One example of this is the way that she flows over the "Broken Clocks" beat.
Most of the production on the album stems from some of the most successful contemporary producers in the game right now: Cam O'bi, Terrence Martin, Pharrell Williams, and Frank Dukes to name a few. You can find at least one of these producers work on Coloring Book, To Pimp A Butterfly, channel ORANGE, and ANTi.
Before the album dropped, SZA explained the overall title of the album coming from the idea of having no control over any parts in life. In a Breakfast Club interview she talked about how she always tried to change and manipulate the destiny of her life, later realizing that she was only really wasting her time. This lead her to become more carefree and living her life exactly how she wants to always, without the worry of controlling anything.
One of my favorite moments on the album are on "Doves in the Wind" where SZA and K. Dot talk about how sex should not be the most important thing in a relationship and how there is always more to it. I also rock with the slowed down '01 Redman sample of "Lets Get Dirty". Another one of my favorite moments on the album is the "Wavy" interlude she did with James Fauntleroy. With the uptempo/pop beat, SZA gives us a snippet of a sound that we have never heard from her before - which makes this great next to her ridiculous melody play.
Watch her feature on an episode of Everyday Struggle on Complex News and hear her break down her current headspace in releasing this album and meaning of the album. Also peep her quick deciphering "Love Galore" on Genius.
3 Things to Know about "Mask Off" (Remix)
Today, Future released the official remix to his heavy hitting song Mask Off. The original version of the song had a heavy impact on social media as it was the theme of the #MaskOffChallenge, where some people got really creative. After moving the culture forward on its own for months, Future decided to add Kung Fu Kenny to the song. While currently basking in the success of DAMN., Kendrick gives us a solid sixteen for the road. Here are some things that are dope to know about the background of the track:
1. Produced and Mixed by Different People
The beat was made by Metro Boomin' who was also the artist of he original beat. Although the beat was the same for the most part, there was a lot of production added to Kendrick's verse to make his flow more cohesive. However, although Metro did the production, the mixing was done by Alex Tumay who has mixed on projects like JEFFERY and Take Care. Tumay has also worked with artists like Kanye West, 21 Savage and Migos.
2. Kendrick's Verse
Kendrick Lamar made sure to keep to giving us a raw version of himself on this remix with his true thoughts and feelings towards society. In the meat of K. Dot's verse, he talks about his massive success in the rap game all while staying true to black culture and who he really is:
3. Kendrick & Future's Collab in Coachella
This year at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in California, Kendrick Lamar acted as one of the headlining acts. During his performance he brought Future out to perform "Mask Off" as a treat for his fans. This could have been around the time when this collaboration idea was born.
| Watch this Future's short film to the original Mask Off and listen to Mask Off (Remix) below |
"Kung Fu Kenny"
On April 14th, Kendrick Lamar released his fourth project - DAMN.. After dropping an album that opened the eyes of America with To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015, Kendrick evolved even further with this new project. Although Kendrick kept a lot of the same angle in basking in black culture (with songs like "DNA.", "FEAR." and "DUCKWORTH."), DAMN. still embraces a sound of its own.
On this go around the production sounds a lot different from the sounds on TPAB and are not as instrumental. With many more looped sounds and hard-hitting bass (like "HUMBLE." embraces), DAMN. goes in a different direction and sounds a lot like Kendrick's early projects Section.80 and Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City at times. This goes because of the producers outside of the TDE camp now coming to touch the beats on Kenny's music. Outside of Sounwave (TDE/Kendrick's right-hand producer), MikeWillMadeIt, 9th Wonder and Steve Lacy from The Internet all touched the production on this album in some way. From the rattling 808s in "DNA." to the funky switch up on "DUCKWORTH.", these producers put their whole foot in this project.
Throughout DAMN. K. Dot continued his story telling ways and gave us a bit more of his story. This ultimately happened with the ending song "DUCKWORTH." where he explained the story of the CEO of Top Dawg, Anthony Tiffith, and Kenny's father known as Ducky. He explained how Top Dawg robbed the chicken restaurant that Ducky worked at in Compton decades ago, and ended up sparing his life. In this story he went on to talk about how that decision changed all three of their lives given the picture of today with Kendrick becoming one of the biggest rap names of this generation. Kendrick also continues to display his struggle between himself and society with the song "FEEL.". Similar to "u" on To Pimp a Butterfly, he went along to describe how he really feels about life right now given his famous lifestyle.
In between the deep vents and the storytelling throughout the album, Kenny reminds us why his is one of the best on top of his in-depth messages. Kung Fu Kenny gave us MAJOR cadence play throughout the whole album on top of that. Similar to classic Andre 3000 and modern day Big Sean, Kendrick gave us a variety of different sounding sixteen bar verses on DAMN.. From switching flows in "XXX." to partially singing on "LOYALTY.", Kendrick gives off a wide range of deliveries.
At this point in Kendrick's career he knows that he is in the top tier of the rap industry (arguably the best in the game). Through throwing subliminal jabs on "ELEMENT." and "HUMBLE.", he's shown that he's not afraid of any competition either. With this album he showed us that he will be here for a while, demonstrating why he deserves that title of best rapper alive. My favorite moments on the album are the songs "DNA.", "HUMBLE.", "FEEL." and "GOD.", along with the practically perfect feature of Rihanna on "LOYALTY." with the 24K Magic sample.
Watch Kendrick Lamar's interview with Zane Lowe below. Hear them talk about each track in depth and Kendrick's state of mind when making this album. Peep.
On April 7th, Brooklyn rapper, Joey Bada$$ released his sophomore album - All Amerikkkan Bada$$. On this project Joey decided to take a completely different (but necessary) angle to give hip-hop fans. The entire theme of the album stems around the outlandish injustice in America towards black culture. Joey gave us a heavy stack of sixteens on "Y U Dont Love Me", "For My People" and "Land of the Free" (which came with a wild visual), next to other songs that dig into the topic of being black in America.
With Joey taking this new direction in his music, it has in-turn created the most influential Jozif Badmon that we've heard. Through the passion that he has on these topics, he is able to provide us with an evolved delivery. With a successful consecutive album after B4.Da.$$, it is easy to see that Joey is building much confidence and moving away from his initial underground lane. It is safe to say that this project will catapult him into possible features with artists like Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole who have been known to rap about the same topics on tracks like "The Blacker the Berry" and "Miss America".
In addition to the content evolving for Joey, the production on this project is on a new level as well. The euphoric and triumphing sound of "Devastated" gives us a motivated feel while "Rockabye Baby" gives us a much more rugged and hard-hitting sound, which is perfect for the ScHoolboy Q feature (and sounds almost identical to a BlankFace track). This beat rollercoaster continues throughout the album and proves to be much more complex than his previous music.
Overall this album by Joey Bada$$ is of perfect timing and portrays a dope message for the people in America. This 'stay woke' angle that he chose was brilliant, as he puts us on game while keeping our heads rocking. A few of my favorite moments on the album are "Land of the Free", "Devastated" and the last verse on "Babylon" feat. Chronixx, where he definitely snapped!
On March 18th Drake released his 8th project - More Life, presented to us as a "playlist". In this go around, Drizzy made sure to give us a compilation of music that we have minimally heard from him before. Like typical Drake fashion, the album has features from top to bottom. The main thing that makes More Life different is the angle of the chosen features this time going. From the second song on the album, international music stars begin to make their appearance throughout the playlist. The London rapper, Giggs brings a rougher element to the album while Jorja Smith from the United Kingdom gives the project a softer touch with her Classic Soul sounding voice. More Life also features the DJ Black Coffee from South Africa as well, making this project one of the most globally appealing albums on the charts right now.
Although this may not strike a lot of his fans as their favorite album, this is undoubtedly the most diverse and dynamic piece by Drake. With so many sounds outside of America rap and Pop (demonstrated on songs like "Madiba Riddim" and "Get It Together" with Black Coffee), he was able to deepen his catalog with another sound. This fact birthed the thought in my mind that this is the Drake that he always wanted us to hear, and made me wonder about the next steps for him as a growing rap artist in this industry.
A big chunk of the content on the album responds to the heavy criticism from his last album, Views. Throughout this album you could tell that Drake chose a different direction in energy to give the people this go around. After hearing fans and critics take jabs at the lack in creativity on Views for almost a year, the 6 God was able to practically reinvent himself. Drake reflected on his journey from Views until now on the hookless outro of "Do Not Disturb", where he snapped for about 5-minutes straight (which he has continued a trend from the outros on his most recent albums: "6pm in New York" [IYRTITL], "30 for 30 Freestyle" [WATTBA], and "Views" [Views]).
The production on this album is even put together differently than the work of his last albums. As we are known for his main producer 40 producing just about every song, he only produced 6 of 22 tracks this time. The other production on the album offers the most variety in sound that we have heard on a Drake album. Next to some of the international sounds on the album, the main producers on the album are Boi-1da, T-Minus, Frank Dukes, and Nineteen85 come together to create more. These producers are responsible for work on ANTi, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, The Life of Pablo and Nothing Was The Same. With Boi-1da, T-Minus and Nineteen85 being from Canada, it makes this album even more of a statement for Drake and his home country. The producers on the album made sure to continue the sample smash that Drake has been diving into lately. The perfectly chopped sample of Jennifer Lopez's "If You Had My Love" on "Teenage Fever" gives us a vintage Drake sound that we've been known to rock with in the past (similar to "Redemption", "Madonna", "Marvin's Room", or "Karaoke"). Drake took this same idea and actually sampled his own "Marvin's Room" on "Jorja Interlude". The genius in placing Stevie Wonder's solo from his own song in the background of this interlude was Drake letting us know that he's in a different category than most artists and he's been doing this for a while. My favorites on this album are "Passion Fruit", "Portland" feat. Quavo & Travis Scott, "Teenage Fever" and "Do Not Disturb".
On February 17, Future released his fifth album entitled FUTURE after announcing it just a week before. This high powered album contains a consistent rough sound similar to his 2015 release, Ditry Sprite 2. The super trap sounds on this album contains production from Zaytoven, Metro Boomin, 808 Mafia and even DJ Khaled. Not long after release, FUTURE peaked at #1 on the Billboard charts, dethroning Big Sean's I Decided..
While being in the midst of knocking "Mask Off" on repeat from FUTURE, the ATL native hit us with another album a week later on February 24th, called HNDRXX. Future confirmed with a motivational post on Instagram (see at bottom) that HNDRXX (Pronounced as "Hendrix") would act as his sixth studio album (5th in 2 years), being referred to as a project that he always wanted to make. HNDRXX is an album that is of complete contrast of its week-long predecessor FUTURE.
On this new release by Future, he made sure to give us a version of himself that we have rarely seen before. In an interview with Zane Lowe, he talked about releasing this album at the perfect time in his career. After listening to this album and hearing that interview, I have found that "Future Hendrix" is a slight R&B crossover of himself - full of confessions and sensitivity. After giving us bits and pieces of this version of himself, he decided to dedicate an entire album to this perspective. Although there is limited rapping on this album and more singing melodies, this album is still surprisingly produced by much of the same team from FUTURE. The surprise coming from their ability to create a completely different album than the one from a week before.
A lot of the greatness in this album comes from the versatility in it. Over the last two years Future has given us a wave of full throttle trap music for us to flex to, and HNDRXX is nothing like that. This isn't the Future album that you play while you are partying but more so the album that you would play throughout a nice day in the whip. The features of Rihanna on "Selfish", and The Weeknd on "Coming Out Strong" add more range in genre as their high voices mesh with Future's raw sound.
The lyrical content on the album is unique to Future as a lot of it circles around his attention to women and him staying focused on his craft. While there is still talk about his pill-popping and rockstar lifestyle (like in "Hallucinating"), Hendrix made sure to mix the content up a bit with the talk of his appreciation of certain women on tracks like "Incredible" and "I Thank U". Future even opened up a bit about some of his pain involving women on "Turn on Me" and the 7-minute song "Sorry".
Overall, this is a great decision for Future to open up with his true musical ear, and stray away from 'Trapper Future' for a while. The new lyrical content on this album makes this much more interesting as it is more relatable to his wider range of fans. This is going to be the perfect album to revisit in the summer time under a sunny day. A few of my favorite moments on these albums are, FUTURE: Mask Off, Scrape, Rent Money & HNDRXX: Coming Out Strong feat. The Weeknd, Hallucinating and Turn on Me. Hopefully we hear more heat from Future Hendrix in the future (no pun intended).
"Beauty in the Struggle"
On January 27th, Kehlani released her debut album called SweetSexySavage. This album went under heavy anticipation after her previous mixtape You Should Be Here was nominated for a Grammy under R&B for Best Urban Contemporary in 2016. Since then she has been able to build her brand and create a solid fanbase behind her raw/uncut style.
Her story started on America's Got Talent in 2011 where she featured in a music group called "Poplyfe" that almost won the title that year. After her appearance on America's Got Talent ended, Nick Cannon (the host at the time) took her under his wing and paired her with the right people in the music industry - the rest is history.
This album SweetSexySavage is a full 18 tracks of pure soul through different variations. The production on the album mainly comes from Iamsu! along with Pop & Oak. Iamsu! is responsible for work with Wiz Khalifa, Casey Veggies, and 2 Chainz while Pop & Oak are responsible for work with Miguel, Omarion, and Alicia Keys. Together these two come together to create a eye-opening R&B album. The main lyrical content on the album is themed around a 21-year old female who is living through the ups and downs of a complicated relationship. From the regretful verses in "In My Feelings" to the appreciation showed in "Thank You", Kehlani made sure that she displayed the whole perspective.
For this reason, this is what makes the album so great. It is an album from a wide perspective of the lifestyle that she lives. After her overcoming a suicide attempt and being targeted on the media for being with different male artists in 2016, she started off 2017 on the best foot. She even speaks on redirecting herself a bit in "CRZY". My favorites off the album are "Distraction", "Personal", and "Piece of Mind".
On February 3rd, Big Sean released his fourth studio album titled I Decided. With much of the same team as Dark Sky Paradise, Big Sean managed to create a brand new sound for the start of 2017. With Kanye West listed as an executive producer on the album for the second consecutive time, it is safe to say that him and Big Sean has found a working formula. During his interview with Zane Lowe, Big Sean has even admitted that working with Kanye West consistently has taught him more about the game and how to shape great projects.
Aside from exclusively working with Kanye West for another time, Sean has reached out to many other artists that he has worked with in his last album. Key Wane, Big Sean's main producer-in-crime made his mark on the album with the standout song "Jump Out the Window" and his ridiculous melodies on the keys. Superstar producer Metro Boomin also made his mark twice on the album this go around with "Bounce Back" and "Sacrifices" feat. Migos. Next to having Mr. West, Key Wane and Metro Bomin produce some of the major heat on the album, Big Sean also had some intriguing features on the project. Early on the album, Eminem surprised the album with a extended verse about his life and the turmoil of society at the moment. Later in the album Sean features Migos, Twenty88, The-Dream, and even the Flint Chozen Choir all appear on the project. In preparation of this album release, he stated that he wanted to have Flint be apart of the project in a creative way to shine a light on the city. In an interview with The Daily Show, Sean also admitted that his foundation donated $100,000 to the Flint water crisis recently alone (MUCH respected).
The lyrical content on the album is shaped around the theme for the album, which is Big Sean being born again (Deciding to live his life a certain way). In some verses, Big Sean talk about overthinking, frustration and confusion going on in his life. In "Jump Out the Window" he talks about him trying to convince a woman that she wants to be with him and how it drives him crazy. While on "Voices In My Head" he explains how he is disappointed in his decisions in life. On the other hand, Big Sean kept the theme relevant with balancing these songs with tracks about him doing better for himself (Light, Inspire Me, Bigger Than Me).
Overall I believe that this album has big shoes to fill with being next to Dark Sky Paradise and its success. The angle that Big Sean goes for in this one is genius because it suggests that we will hear a Sean that we have never heard before with his next projects. My favorite tracks on this album are "Owe Me" with the Travis Scott touch, "Jump Out the Window" and "Moves".
On February 2, 2017, Syd (lead singer of The Internet) released her debut album labeled Fin. This album is a bundle of twelve solid tracks that has many different feels and soulful vibes to it. From the sharp drum collection on "Shake 'Em Off" (produced by Hit-Boy), to the smooth Aaliyah-like vibe on "Know", Syd made sure to bless us with it all. With more fearless lyrics mixed with her timeless melodies, Syd shapes this album into a masterpiece of her own. The content on the album captures a confident, seductive, honest and raunchy side of Syd all in one sitting - which makes for the perfect R&B album. Also, something that we have never completely heard from her before.
The depth of the content on this album suggests that Syd is in the midst of a breakthrough as an artist and individual. To add to her authenticity, next to the originality of writing every song on the album, she also produced a handful of songs herself (Smile More, No Complaint & Nothin to Somethin). On "Drown In It", Syd takes an interlude to talk about how she really feels about a woman and what she wants to do with her over a smooth Janet Jackson vibe. While on "Nothin to Somethin" she steps aside from the neo-soul and gives us a swagged out version of herself. With her confident bars over this smooth west coast sound, she takes no losses.
A few of my favorite moments in the album are on "Know" with the classic Timbaland sounding beat, the feature of 6lack on "Over", and the unique mix of hip-hop & soul on "Nothin to Somethin". What a dope debut!