Tag Archives: R & B

Hivemind and the open expanse of R&B in 2018

Hivemind and the open expanse of R&B in 2018

by Dan-O

I’m old and from Maine. In my high school I got made fun of for loving R&B music. My discman went everywhere with me so when people discovered I was listening to Smokey and The Miracles they would clown me. It’s interesting to think that the kids in dirty Red Sox hats and highwater jeans were probably listening to rock bands influenced by Motown while mocking me.  When people asked if I liked Rap best (because of how I dressed) I would always rebuke with something to the effect of “I love The Blues and rap is just an extension of it.” Fast forwarding to today it looks like R & B won.

Just look at the grammy nominations for R & B v. Rock. Last two years rock nominees are still Weezer, Queens of The Stone Age, Metallica, Panic! At the Disco old names and the new ones (looking at you War On Drugs) are mad boring. R&B album nominees from that period definitely still include seasoned veterans like Mya, Mint Condition, and Bruno Mars but so many new names over the last three years especially: Daniel Caesar, BJ The Chicago Kid, Jazmine Sullivan, Andra Day, Leon Bridges. I understand we live in a society where you’ll look at that list and say “What do you mean BJ is new?! He had a hot mixtape back in 2009!” What was he doing when Queens of The Stone Age made their first appearance in 1997? Or Metallica first made noise?  War On Drugs, that hot new band I was talking about, have been releasing albums together since 2008(they are the youngest band of that list I gave). In rock years that makes them babies. This is only part of the problem for a genre that has never felt more static.

The Internet (the group) is a wonderful example of the expanded space within the genre. Last year The Internet’s lead singer SYD released two solo projects: her full LP Fin and an EP Always Never Home.  SYD herself said she was just using these projects to flush out fun ideas. Some of the tracks on Fin are self produced others by fellow bandmate Steve Lacy but someone knew it was going to be major because HazeBanga and Hit-Boy don’t gift everyone a beat. Solo Syd is polished urban contemporary, radio ready, sleek lyrical. When she went back to working with The Internet they created Hivemind  which is chunkier, with organic drum and bass, timeless melodies that could have been from any era. The drumming is so exciting on Hivemind I immediately looked up who played it…well its Syd again. The same whispering ghost who haunted tense songs like Bad Dreams/No Looking Back in 2017 decided to smash the drums and form a song around it on Bravo. Some songs on the new album sound like a continuation of the super group Lucy Pearl (La Di Da) others like Aaliyah heading up The Roots (Wanna Be) and as free as it is it holds together. Syd writes songs with heart and vivid detail just outside of the range of people with simpler vision. She can make you live in the moment with her and feel it.

Name a new Rock band who can do that? If I’m wrong that R &B gives you more options while rock locks you into an old template what is the reason for our reality? My bias acknowledged and aside why are people with no understanding or affection for the genre forced to bask in the work of people like SZA and The Internet? Rock needs to find some space to grow and I don’t know where that is.


Bad Dream/No Looking Back from Always Never Home:

Bravo from Hivemind




EP Review-Royalty The Prequel by The Dream

EP Review-Royalty The Prequel by The Dream

by Dan-O

Amidst all the great little R&B mixtapes that have dropped into the universe this year you won’t hear a lot about Royalty. Not for lack of interesting music, by the way, more for the emotional neediness. This is a project so very off-putting that the hits Dream can just churn out in minutes and march into the world like the grand marshall of a parade are soaked in remorse. A song like Duet which should hum with sexual energy and bravado instead feels like its mojo’s been stolen and now it just exists naked and pawing.

I’m not sure how people “like” their Dream cause I’ve always found him off-putting. The persona he created for his music was ½ R. Kelly ½ Prince and that tastes like Hummus flavored ice cream to me. Royalty clears all that crap off the table: the sunglasses inside the building, the leather jackets that look like Members Only jackets. This collection is what’s left of an insanely talented writer/performer who has suffered immense and humiliating heartbreak now he’s not letting you leave until he explains it to you.

A song like Culture could have taken the shape of simple lifestyle brag but by the end he’s begging the woman in his life to experience so much more of the worlds wonders with him. None of these songs feel like they rolled off him into a snug radio friendly hook and planned music video. Outkast is not just a bizarre but fitting homage to the group but a really well crafted overly sincere rambling pick up line. Wedding Bells sounds festive but is loaded down with baggage “My sister like hell nah she ain’t right. She ain’t your type. We ain’t right for each other…F_ It! It’s nothing. If I was perfect I’m sure it’d still be something.”

The centerpiece of Royalty is the agonizing heartbreak of Cold. The Dream takes Mobb Deep Shook Ones beat and lets his relationship tribulations all hang out. We go from the wedding we all know wont work out to its ugly conclusion(over the course of the tape) and regardless of how jarring the expedition is it’s a complete passage. By the end of Cold you won’t have any questions as to how he got where he is. Dream has so much oozing talent that as purposely grating as the subject matter can be the songs still flutter and bounce at just the right times. This weird little free EP might be my favorite piece of music he’s ever put out. It has moments that feel like the tragic middle chunk of a one man show. You stare at the narrators face as tragedy sets in and watch as that person bites down and starts to recover.

Stream or download Royalty The Prequel below: