February and its transition into March have been thrilling. This article could simply be “This Month In Kanye” and it would be a solid recap of the month that was, but as I explain in the notes in the bottom, getting into that will not be necessary. Besides, 2015 in rap has finally ignited from an album standpoint, great house music is abound, and to drive home the first point, I am writing this introduction immediately after receiving news that the new Kendrick Lamar album will be released March 23. Before we spend the next month catching up with Drake Dick Book Club and the Sunn O))) discography (streaming at their bandcamp page for a limited time only), let’s take a moment to recap the last month in ethics in journalism, New Orleans, and Prince doves.
February Odds and Ends:
The album exists, and has for a few weeks now. Even so, it’s still hard to believe that his work is in album form. The now Berlin-based, U.S. deep-house producer puts together challenging tracks that dare DJs to play them. The billing of 4xLP is a misnomer as the runtime is roughly 73 minutes, but Vincent chugs through that time at 126 bpm, anchored around its dynamite single, “Anti-Corporate Music”. It may be the best deep-house album since Midtown 120 Blues.
I can’t call Chicago hip-hop producer Chvrles Lvuste (pronounced Charles Lauste, fka DJ Chi) and his ragtag collective of rappers and singers aspiring after this offering. His drums are better than ever and some of more than half of the beats on his latest, ZNO, are better than standard mixtape fare. Then there’s Get Rich With Your Friends, the aforementioned collective from which the guest spots here are mined. The singers do this project service, but the rappers are worth discussing for the strides made on that end since Lvuste’s The Twenty EP last winter. Femdot, perhaps the group’s strongest MC, shows progress in his storytelling from his recent EP, King Dilla, anchoring the album’s penultimate track “Lord Save Me” admirably. J-Hop, whom I’ve compared to clipping. frontman Daveed Diggs in the past, is utilized as well as he could on “The Influence” and “WWAR” before the reminder that he can rap his tail his off on “Failure”. Elsewhere, Bk Bambino and Young 99 make their presence felt. ZNO’s best material is expertly packed in the middle and this is by far the best thing to come out of that collective so far. If there were anything that’s going to set some of these guys, if not all of them over the top, you would have to consult Andrew Barber at this point.
It’s not as turnt as some anticipating this album would have liked, but Future Brown is a very good dance/hip-hop album that is, yes, global. The group consisting of Nguzunguzu, Fatima Al Qadiri, and J-Cush, have become known for their scant output last year, as well as their group DJ sets, in which they have aimed to perform with one of their collaborators serving as the master of ceremonies, making it all up on the spot. Kelela, Tink, Shawnna, Sicko Mobb, Riko Dan, Maluca, and others serve as guest vocalists. The highlights are some of the best all year, but the results are mixed when it comes to domestic artists. Future Brown is surely a strong enough offering that it didn’t deserve to turn into a discussion about artists controlling the narrative around their work, but let’s not deny their culpability in this childish controversy.
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Vakula – A Voyage To Arcturus
Here’s a goofy concept: soundtracks for books. Apparently, that’s how Ukranian house producer Vakula (Mikhaylo Vityk) imagined his latest work, named after A Voyage To Arcturus. But the David Lindsay book of the same name has no bearing on the quality of the music to those uninitiated with the literature. Fortunately, A Voyage To Arcturus lives up to the highs Vakula reached on 2013’s You’ve Never Been To Konotop.
Whispers about Academy Award winner Juicy J’s retirement are real. Blue Dream & Lean 2, the sequel to the 2011 mixtape, shows that there’s still something in Juicy’s tank, but increasingly less. On his own, it’s starting to appear as if his niche is as a features artist and 2010’s classic Rubba Band Business 2 (not buying much of the hype around the original Blue Dream & Lean) was a fluke. But even so, this is a Juicy J release and there are at least 4 or 5 good songs to be had here. If you’re still pining for the Juicy J of very old, though, there’s this.
See Also: Young Dolph – High Class Street Music 5: The Plug Best Friend
The follow up to Cannibal Ox’s seminal indie-rap album, The Cold Vein, was about 14 years coming and did not wind up defying my expectations either way. Vast Aire and Mordul Vega are still fine lyricists, although there are some slip-ups on Blade of the Ronin. All is forgiven when Vast Aire mentions a punk chick that gave him Bad Brains. Suffice to say the duo doesn’t recapture the magic, but in peak reunion culture, this was surely above average.
Soul-trap guy sort of abandons the former half of his shtick is a working headline for Chicago rapper Tree’s latest, and best release to date. The hooks on here are the big sell, especially with tracks like “Betta Than Eva”, “Hold Up”, and especially “Bring The Shit Up”. Top to bottom, that part of TrapGenius even surpasses the latest offering from Drake. He sounds confident in his abilities and the gravitas he brings in between scant brags lends purpose to the newscasters spliced in, talking about Chicago’s gang violence problem. On “Hunneds and Fifties”, he avoids trends by saying he doesn’t eat ass, comes back to trends by employing the Migos flow, but avoiding them again by using the flow over a sample of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. After Dawn Richard’s Blackheart, this is the best album of the year to date: another classic to add to the Chicago rap canon.
Monthly reminder that your Kanye take doesn’t matter. My Kanye take doesn’t matter. None of our Kanye takes matter.
Did anybody check out the new Sun Kil Moon literally Electric new single? I’m still making heads or tails of it, but because I’m a slowcore and emo pleb it sounds like American Football with a touch of old man to me.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the Father John Misty album wasn’t good. It’s Benji Jr.
February was the month of #MWE (Music Writer Exercise), which was an idea of Queens-based freelance writer Gary Suarez. The premise was to listen to an album you hadn’t heard previously and write a tweet about it. Then there was some hogwash about networking thrown into it, but it was very interesting to see what people were discovering over the past month. #MWE served as a reminder that writers should be voraciously listening to music outside of their establish comfort zones as much as they should work their other job related skills.
If you haven’t already, go read all of Brandon’s reviews. He has the best rating scale ever. (Spoiler Alert: It’s Prince-related)