Jorja Smith Paving Her Way Internationally

Jorja Smith Paving Her Way Internationally

"Oh, Jorja.."

Jorja Smith first popped up on the music scene in 2017 on Drake’s album More Life. From having her own interlude to being a primary feature on “Get It Together”, Jorja began to get her name out and her music in subliminal rotation. Since the Drake co-sign, she took off in the female R&B vein of music and continued to make consistent fire. 

Originally being from England, it’s huge for Jorja Smith to takeoff in the American music market this way. This dominoes into being big for the international music industry, period. International music has always been relevant in terms of talent but it’s impressive to see it cut into the competitive American market. Just over the last year, Jorja Smith has been a contemporary trailblazer in international R&B. 

Through using her unique style and texture she has painted her own lane in our sound today. With different styles she gave us a taste of her range in this game. From the upbeat, and euphoric sound on “On My Mind”, to the emotional feel on “I Am” from the Black Panther Soundtrack, she showed what she is capable of. With no album in sight she has been making her mark in the game with her work so far. I would suspect for an album to come by the end the year but for now she should just kill features and singles as she has been. Listen to a playlist of her songs here —> J. Smith.

Impulz | Phzd

Impulz | Phzd

"Dirty Water but the Bars Clean"

On March 16, the upcoming duo Phzd released their newest project called Impulz. This album is the nest of so many different genres. The variety in this project is so wide but ironically that’s what makes this album a distinct project.

Throughout the course of the album, the artist Phill gave so many different sounds and melodies. Hopping from genre to genre; from rapping to singing - undoubtedly proved his talent on the music level. The deliveries throughout the album gave essence of a Kid Cudi or Anderson .Paak (in terms of how his voice sounds against the music). Given that the music game is all about labels right now, (i.e. pop, mumble rap, conscious rap, trap music) this project is unique because it’s give us a little bit of everything. This brings me to the production on the album.

Although Phill does a lot by switching flows, the producer, Ben, was right there step-for-step with him making fire of his own. At the album release party, the producer broke down how the album is a four-part play concept that resembles the feels of each season. With that in mind it explains why the album is so versatile and feels like it’s covering all bases. The chemistry and musical understanding between this producer/artist combo is very special and reminds me of what the Toronto R&B duo dvsn was able to accomplish over time. The cohesiveness of the content, tone, and beats would be impressive on every level of music.

Overall this is a project about a growing artist who had found himself in a broken city, Flint, Michigan - profound expression at its finest. My favorites on the album are “Nxworries”, “Mind$et” and “Why You Leave”. Listen to whole album here.

Black Panther Soundtrack | TDE

Black Panther Soundtrack | TDE

"I'm Rooting for Everybody Black"

On February 9th, the Black Panther Soundtrack was released and became a part of history. The album was exclusively produced by major label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). With that being said, there is a TDE artist on just about every song. Kendrick Lamar was a huge part in this album by being featured on just about every song (sometimes only in the background vocals). 

Outside of the heavy TDE presence, there was a nice range of features on the album. A lot of the features were combinations that we never thought we would hear. Ab-Soul, Anderson .Paak and James Blake came together for “Bloody Waters”.. while Khalid and Swae Lee hopped on “The Ways” for a dope summer sound. The main runaway in the feature category was with Kendrick and SOB x RBE on “Paramedic!”. Both of these Cali artists brought the inevitable west coast bounce along with their own flare. Somehow they came together to make potentially one of the hottest songs of the year. 

The production on the album is kinda ridiculous in itself. The producers tried to stay within the theme of Black Panther and the location ‘Wakanda’ by incorporating African sounds throughout the soundtrack. This made this album so much more cohesive with the movie and was able to blend so well between the scenes. In a Rap Radar interview with MixedbyAli (music engineer for TDE), he explained how producers spent time in Africa gaining first hand inspiration from the sounds, instruments and melodies that the African culture use in music. This only helped the soundtrack tremendously by giving it a more authentic feel. Even if you have not seen Black Panther movie, the soundtrack will remind you a lot of African culture based off the instruments they decided to use. This was a perfect touch for the album and added a lot of detail to the movie. 

Now the movie is officially the highest selling superhero movie of all time. Meaning that the soundtrack is gaining more and more traction by the minute. This is huge for hip-hop, and specifically TDE in the grand scheme of everything. For hip-hop to be the leading genre in a Marvel movie’s soundtrack is crazy because Marvel is known to be a movie juggernaut for the last 10+ years. Now hopefully we can keep this trend going. 

My favorite songs on the album are "King’s Dead", "I Am", "Paramedic!", and "The Ways".

Watch the video to "All The Stars" below.

Culture II | Migos

Comment

Culture II | Migos

"Cheat Code"

On January 26, Migos gave us Culture II, the follow up album to their multi-platinum album Culture that was released last year. This time around, the album is almost twice as long as the original Culture album. This means more inevitable club bangers and hype music. On this album they made sure to darken their mark in the game by giving us truly authentic music that only they can make. This album is filled with perfect ad-libs and crazy energy.

This past summer, Migos began their roll out with their single “Motorsport” with Nicki Minaj and a hot Cardi B. Shortly after that release they gave us “Stir Fry” with the first original emoji music video. The marketing of these songs were genius leaving these singles to age well and find their way to consistent radio spins.

The beats on the album consists of hard trap music coming from over ten different producers (including Pharrell, Murda Beatz, Metro Boomin, Kanye West and Zaytoven to name a few). This kept the album fresh and unpredictable throughout the first listen. Alongside the crazy beat selection, all of the features on the album are popular acts which adds even more life to the album. Somehow Migos was able to finesse the hottest artists on this album. Some of the main features are 21 Savage, Drake, Post Malone, 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, Travis Scott and Ty Dolla $ign. All of these artists are on a run in their own way and add their essence to this album. That being said, this album is almost like a cheat code and will for sure prosper in today’s music world.

But, to be honest, the most impressive bars on the album came from Takeoff. A lot of people joke around about him being left out in some of their work, but this group would not succeed without him and he proved that on here. Songs like “Made Men” and “Movin’ Too Fast” showed he can hold the torch whenever needed.

Overall the album is not Culture but it’s a dope rendition of sticking with that concept. This album will age well and be a solid addition to their catalog. Good ish Migos! My favorite songs on the album are “Flooded”, “Movin’ Too Fast”, “Stir Fry”, “Made Men”, “Top Down on the NAWF”, and “Too Playa”.

Check dope interview with Migos below.

Comment

Victory Lap | Nipsey Hussle

Comment

Victory Lap | Nipsey Hussle

"Hidden Gems"

On February 16, Nipsey Hussle added to this dope Black History Month with his new album Victory Lap. This is a continuation of his race themed albums (The Marathon, The Marathon Continues [TMC], X-Tra Laps). This theme comes from a metaphor Nipsey uses for life being that the road to success is a marathon, not a sprint. This mentality definitely reflects in his music and what he talks about.

The gist of Nipsey’s essence is boss music. Throughout this album he gave us constant gems on how to expand our business minds and grow as self made people. Hearing Nipsey talk about the the different levels of the game and giving us advice on how to move kind of reminds me of Hov’s 4:44. On “Last Time That I Checc’d”, Nip talked about how he’s been doing big stuff since he came out. Brags about being independent and playing his cards right constantly threads thru this song and create a clear validation of Nips legacy. On “Dedication”, he took it one step further to talk about the sacrifices he made to be great. Topped off with a real verse from Kendrick Lamar giving his story of being locked into his lifestyle and working with Nipsey.

Along with working with Kendrick, a lot of other well-known artists touched this album. Other features on this album included YG, Dom Kennedy, Diddy, The Dream, CeeLo Green, and Marsha Ambrosius to name a few. Most of the features on the album stem from west coast artists, which is dope because you can tell that they are paying homage to Nipsey and who he is to their culture.

This takes me to the production of the album. For the most part, the album holds the sounds of classic west coast music. Crazy bounce, with hard bass, and smooth hooks. A lot of the beats can easily remind you of old west coast rappers like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, or Ice Cube to name a few. Check out this album if you are looking for any level of motivation along with some nice bounce. My favorite tracks on the album are “Dedication”, “Loaded Bases”, and “Victory Lap”.

Check out Nipsey's interview with the Breakfast Club where he talks about the album, his relationship with Diddy, and stories about him coming up.

Comment

The Summary?

Comment

The Summary?

Around 3am on January 19th, Drake released another two song series called Scary Hours. Almost a year after the release of More Life, he gives us two new solo bops with “God’s Plan” and “Diplomatic Immunity”.

Even with ‘throw-out’ records Drake seems to shake up the game. Just days after the Scary Hours drop, Drake broke the record for most plays in a day on Spotify with the song “God’s Plan” (4.3 Million streams). Just weeks after that Drake kept gaining accolades with dethroning Jay-Z for having the most Top 10 songs in Hip-Hop (22 songs).

IMG_8765.jpeg

Although this success seems random to the untrained eye, it is pretty clear to see his strategy for growth in today’s music world. Drake made sure to feed both vessels of the hip hop fanbase with this release. “God’s Plan” is the epitome of party music that slaps thanks to timed 808s and a crazy bounce...but doesn’t require too much thought. On the other hand, Drake barred us to death on “Diplomatic Immunity” and told us exactly what was on his mind. From dissing Joe Budden and Akademiks on Everyday Struggle, to talking about women trying to pin a baby on him, he laid it all out. This was well calculated for both songs to grow in two different lanes, and was nicely executed.

Drake on "Diplomatic Immunity"

Drake on "Diplomatic Immunity"

Recently Drake was spotted at Miami Senior High School shooting the video for “God’s Plan”. This could start a conspiracy that Drake actually wants to do something serious with these songs. Only time will tell, but right now we know he’s back in 2018 to give us the summary.

Comment

Huncho Jack Jack Huncho | Travis Scott & Quavo

Comment

Huncho Jack Jack Huncho | Travis Scott & Quavo

"It's Lit Dat Way"

On December 21, Travis Scott and Quavo from Migos released a joint project called Huncho Jack Jack Huncho. This album came off the momentum of their past joint songs that showcased their great chemistry together. One of their first bangers being "Oh My Dis Side" from Travis Scott's debut album Rodeo. More recently, you can find them working together again on Migo's Culture album in the song "Kelly Price".

On Huncho Jack they made sure to really show and prove with a consistently hype project. Although the two have a slightly different sound in music, Travis and Quavo did a dope job with blending their sounds together on here. Even along with the content on the album, you can tell that these two really live similar rockstar lifestyles full of paychecks, drugs and fine women. They made sure to remind us of this throughout the whole album over beats from some of the best contemporary hip hop producers in the game right now (Southside, Murda Beatz & Mike Dean to name a few). Between the dual acrobatic flow and undeniable beats, the album is almost a cheat code in today’s music world.

Because of these songs being stacked with new talent, this album didn’t have many features. However the features that were selected were obviously intentional. The only two features on the album are Takeoff on “Eye to Eye”, and Offset on “Dubai Sh*t”. This is dope because although this is a separate project for Quavo, he still showed love to his Day 1 homies. In past interviews they openly talked about their "everybody eats" mentality which they feel keeps them close together without jealousy or envy. 

The album title and artwork is pretty organic itself. The name Huncho Jack comes from a blend of their alias names they call themselves. Quavo often refers to himself as 'Huncho', and reminds us often, even with his jewelry. Travis Scott often goes by 'Cactus Jack', which is a play on how wild he can get at his shows and performances. The artwork is abstract cartoon art of both Quavo and Travis Scott. This painting was done by Welsh artist, Ralph Steadman who is known for his famous caricature paintings in his career. His abstract eye for painting fits the the album perfectly as it highlights their lifestyle and unique music in hip hop. My favorite songs on the album are “Saint Laurent Mask” and “Go”.

IMG_8742.jpeg

Comment

Say Less | Roy Woods

Comment

Say Less | Roy Woods

"Do More"

On December 1st of 2017, OVO artist Roy Woods released his debut studio album called Say Less. Almost exactly a year after last year's project Waking at Dawn and previous years of anticipation, Woods finally made a full album for us. 

Say Less is an album full of mellow vibes and soothing sounds, all blended with Woods aggressive R&B style. Throughout the album Woods gets his point across with his original tone in his music. In the modern world of music where all music seems to overlap, he did a great job staying in his own lane. With him staying true to himself, it was easy for him to stretch his voice over many different beats and sounds. In most of the songs on the album, Roy Woods straddles the line of dancehall and classic R&B - which plays in making this album so special. On songs like “A Little Bit of Lovin” and “Top Left” Woods focused on giving his fans something to Milly Rock to. While on the album titled song, "Say Less" he gives more of a true soul sound for the diehard R&B culture. 

What makes the album one of a kind is the way that Woods was able to channel this blend of sound throughout the full duration of the album. Say Less is an album that you can play from beginning to end without skipping through “fillers” or mediocre songs. Also the fact that he created this album with limited features makes this album special. Most of the features on the album come from his close OVO team and fits perfectly in the album in terms of sound. As we all know, the Canadian hip-hop sound has taken off within the last five years with artists like The Weeknd, Drake, PartyNextDoor, Tory Lanez, and dvsn just to name a few. Roy Woods gets added to this list and sounds dope with some of these artists on this album. 

My favorite songs on the album are “Balance” with dvsn & PNB Rock, and “Bb”. Give this album a chance, and I bet you would catch yourself vibing in it. Solid work Roy!

Comment

Honorable Albums of 2017

Comment

Honorable Albums of 2017

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

Comment

No Dope on Sundays | Cyhi the Prynce

Comment

No Dope on Sundays | Cyhi the Prynce

"Good Music"

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

Comment

4eva is a Mighty Long Time | Big K.R.I.T.

Comment

4eva is a Mighty Long Time | Big K.R.I.T.

"Mirror Talk"

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”.

Comment

Morning After | dvsn

Comment

Morning After | dvsn

"Calculated Success"

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".

Comment

Laila's Wisdom | Rapsody

Comment

Laila's Wisdom | Rapsody

"Gender Reveal"

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! 

My favorite songs on the album are "Nobody" featuring Anderson Paak & Black Thought, and Black & Ugly featuring BJ The Chicago Kid.

Check out her video to "Power" below. 

Comment

Sonder Son | Brent Faiyaz

Comment

Sonder Son | Brent Faiyaz

"Soulful Son"

'She see money all around me, I look like I'm the man'

*back of  Sonder Son  album cover

*back of Sonder Son album cover

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. 

- Brent Faiyaz in "Gang Over Luv"

- Brent Faiyaz in "Gang Over Luv"

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.

Comment

Freudian | Daniel Caesar

Comment

Freudian | Daniel Caesar

"Spiritual Level"

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.

Comment

Funk Wave Bounces Vol. 1 | Calvin Harris

Comment

Funk Wave Bounces Vol. 1 | Calvin Harris

"Smash Bros."

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.

- PND on "Cash Out"

- PND on "Cash Out"

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.

Comment

The Bucket List | Saba

Comment

The Bucket List | Saba

"WINdy City"

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".

Comment

4:44 | JAY-Z

Comment

4:44 | JAY-Z

"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.  

Comment

Who is Ella Mai?

Comment

Who is Ella Mai?

Meet Ella Mai.


- "Switch Sider"

- "Switch Sider"

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.


Comment

Ctrl | SZA

Comment

Ctrl | SZA

"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.

- "THE WEEKEND"

- "THE WEEKEND"

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.

- "DOVES IN THE WIND"

- "DOVES IN THE WIND"

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.


Comment