Song of The Year-Lil Thing by Knox Fortune
Debut albums are so much more complete than they used to be. The death of the music industry happened first with the death of developing talent. At this point signee’s must have already established their sound. So it is no shock when you listen to the debut album Paradise by Knox Fortune it sounds like an artist who has been defined in the public eye for years . It is ok to recognize the name from Chance The Rapper’s All Night off of last years Coloring Book album. The energy, angelic singing, and clattering weirdness are very much a part of the DNA in Paradise.
This is mood music to the fullest, put it on and have a cook out. Lil Thing burbles and crackles while Knox sounds pristine in a genderless way when he goes effortlessly into the high register. You can listen to Lil Thing over and over and over without ever tiring of it but lest you think that all of Knox Fortune is tossed off brilliant summer vibe music listen to the positively New Wave I Don’t Wanna Talk About It. This is a voice with real vision and as weird as it all is it is a thing to respect. My wife hates “smooth R&B” and I asked if she hated this, she paused for a solid twenty seconds trying to figure out what this is. In the end she gave the most confused no I’d heard her give in a while. Is it indie? Is it hip hop? Is it R &B? Welcome to this era of modern music where every artist is making their own smoothie of influences into their own flavor. Lil Thing tastes magnificent.
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Tagged All Night, Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book, death of the music industry, debut album, hip hop, Indie, Knox Fortune, Lil Thing, Paradise, R&B, song of the year, Song Review
Song of The Year-No Sleeep by Janet Jackson featuring J.Cole
At the height of her fame Janet was stuck smack in the middle between two of the most important female artists in history. Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey were in a high note arms race, holding the microphone and bending backward belting and holding, challenging the other to raise the stakes.
It makes sense that critics were not universally excited about Janet’s approach. No Sleeep is reminiscent of That’s The Way Love Goes in that it thrusts her into the spotlight while remaining hushed and casual. Her voice comes to us still in the frail whisper of a secret teenage phone conversation and that’s survived. The fullness and character in that harmonic murmur is the mother of so much of today’s R&B. The glass rattling diva era passed and Janet is still here.
This song isn’t just a great thing for Janet. J. Cole sounds focused and special. At his worst Cole sounds like a rapper you couldn’t pick out of a line up, picking sleepy beats and kicking pretty simple lifestyle analysis over them. He closes this song with all of his energy in it. This is post-Forest Hills Drive J.Cole and I hope he never looks back. “You bring cooked food, I bring desert” sticks in your mind because it’s a unique image and a realistic circumstance. The song flows into him so naturally that by its end you are ready to hit repeat and listen again. It’s a sneaky sleeper of a single that looms larger with every listen. I wonder how many of the toughest rappers in the game’s history have Janet in their car right now. How many of them grew up depending on her sincerity like I did? Like I still do.
My Star Wars Analogy between Miguel and Leon Bridges
Miguel’s new album Wildheart is not short of brilliant. It’s like an intimidating layer cake of sexual pop music that carries Prince’s style with R. Kelly’s nymphomaniacal intention. Leon Bridges Come Home album is on the opposite side of the spectrum but just as exciting. It sounds like Sam Cooke and the Everly Brothers had a baby in Motown’s 1963 Detroit. It’s not simple nostalgia but a hybrid of sounds with his voice as the clear center piece and effective, concise, heartfelt songwriting as its currency.
The two albums released so close together force a weird Star Wars comparison into my mind. Both albums have what music consumers could call “the force” that power to make soul not just earnest but catchy to the point of addiction. Miguel works on the dark side of the force and is the Darth Vader of this comparison. Last album he took the Clockwork Orange R&B of The Weeknd and made it fun(Kaleidoscope Dream), this time he’s even trickier forcing his drugs and sex agenda into a fantastic world of sizzling guitar and sharp drums. Even when he’s admitting that he’s gross the song is so great you don’t even care. He makes sinning seem awesome in the manner that Darth Vader made my generation of kids want to crush necks with our mind.
Example of Miguel’s dark power
When you are done with the Miguel and the cold shower that follows, pull up this youtube in front of your Mom and Grandmother and watch them all love Lisa Sawyer.
Come Home doesn’t just showcase Bridges powerful voice but masterful minimalism. In this situation he is Luke Skywalker on a journey to cut through the densely sexual R&B landscape with a very controlled sound. Ten songs, thirty five minutes and not a note out of place, it’s an album that brings the eloquence of confidently crafted soul music so efficiently that it grips you right at the core of who you are. Of course, in this analogy R. Kelly is the evil emperor.
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Tagged 2015 albums, Come Home, Darth Vader, Leon Bridges, Luke Skywalker, Miguel, R&B, soul music, Star Wars analogy, the force, Weeknd, Wildheart
Mixtape Review-Beast Mode by Future x Zaytoven
I’m incorrect but I always think of Future as an amazing raw talent. The way basketball writers must have looked at Wilt Chamberlain. He’s not raw at all. The music always feels that way because of how he attacks it. A new project roll out for Future never encompasses a new direction with a different look and feel. He attacks what he does whether it’s about selling dope or buying cars or achieving love; always with no fear of seeming cheesy or emotional and always with the autotune at its highest setting.
When his album Pluto smashed rap music I called him king of the hookers, able to nail the chorus so precisely that you needed the song in your rotation. Not just his hooks but guest hooks. Beast Mode proves that the boundless energy it takes to throttle every opportunity is not just something Future brings to the hook, he brings it everywhere.
The whole project is nine songs long and entirely produced by Zaytoven, who has a great understanding of the push and pull needed in a good trap-ish beat. Zaytoven has been trending weird and minimalist at the same time, finding a way to make every beat sound signature and different at the same time. Listen to the sparse, strange Peacoat and you’ll understand. For Futures part he rarely relies on his R&B sensibilities on Beast Mode instead making his growls and verses catchy on Oooooh and even when his voice pulls into appealing croon it’s for the classic get-wealthy-with-me anthem No Basic which carries a heap of adrenaline pumped muscle.
As amped as No Basic can get you Where I Came From is a thousand times more subdued and doesn’t feel too far away from any other song on the project. Zaytoven weaves piano into his baseline better than 90% of producers and that sound fits Future like a glove. In a hushed melodic mumble Future talks about the feds coming to get them, selling out of his grandmother’s house, and lots of stark shocking images you may not catch if you get wrapped up in the melody. Maybe that’s the joke of it all. East Coast cats hear the melody and dismiss him but people that know how to listen to Southern rap can tell you that not only can Future sing and rap he does both about real situations. Even Real Sisters which is supposed to be about having a three-way with ladies and not caring if they are real sisters has a lot of penitentiary and trap talk.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t beg you to listen to Beast Mode in order to catch another fantastic Juvenile feature. They remake the structure of his Ha hit into Aintchu and Juvi is damn solid. He’s like the southern Jadakiss; wherever his solo album content may be (fantastic or forgettable) he still kills every feature in front of him and is almost on your top rapper list.
Watching Future make everything work on Beast Mode is like watching Wilt pull 40 rebounds and score 50 points over sweaty slow white guys and shaking your head like “man, the game is changing…” remember when we all thought he was just the new T-Pain? Feels like a long time ago.
Stream or Download Beast Mode below:
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Tagged Atlanta hip hop, autotune, Beast Mode, future, Jadakiss, Juvenile, mixtape review, Pluto, R&B, T-Pain, Trap Music, Wilt Chamberlain, Zaytoven
Song Review-Marilyn Monroe by K Camp produced by Big Fruit
K Camp has been a bankable commodity for years. The collaborative mixtape he did with Sy Ari Da Kid a few years ago is one of my favorite collaborative projects in recent memory. He has a way of making utterly pleasant R&B without making it syrupy and rapping without it sounding like a second best skill.
That being said his new mixtape One Way is short (ten songs) but a powerfully uneven listen. This song showcases everything that works about K Camp but it doesn’t get rid of Owe Me That Pussy which is just awful. K Camp can slide into a vaginal discharge Noah’s arc joke way too thoughtlessly but that’s part of the package. He’s fearlessly turning up the party and if that means making a song called Shout Out My Bitches that’s what he’ll do. It’s sometimes impossible to find a thread connecting song to song but even as a grab bag of potential singles One Way is a heck of a listen.
Big Fruit lays a stunningly sparse backdrop on Marilyn Monroe with finger snaps and crickets chirping. It’s not a gamble to strip things down this low because K Camp has the voice to carry it. The partnership with Big Fruit (can we call them FruitCamp?!) always yields excellent results; seven out of ten beats are Big Fruit and it doesn’t seem like enough. Fruit is one of the best producers going and One Way proves how much growth is possible. As great as this song is another track they did together on the tape, Lil Bit, is jamming on a whole nother level.
Posted in Big Fruit, FruitCamp, K Camp, One Way, song review, Sy Ari Da Kid
Tagged Big Fruit, FruitCamp, hip hop, K Camp, One Way, R&B, Song Review, Sy Ari Da Kid
Mixtape Review-Till The End of Summer by Villz
The post-Weeknd world of R&B can feel narcissistic and slimy. It’s often the reveling and recollecting of nefarious activities involving drugs, violence, and sex. Even the guilt espoused feels like a bit of brag. ALL THESE WOMEN ALL THIS MONEY; IS THIS LIFE? The weight of the content can crush the fun of the music and maybe this should have been the case with Till The End of Summer but it isn’t.
All eight tracks are soaked in autotune and party/post party confession but it works. The Cycle sets the stage elaborating on the addiction to pursuing a party that never ends. Part of what makes the project so special is how snugly each song fits into the next. Villz never sings to impress with Whitney Houston scale jumping. 420AM starts where The Cycle leaves off with the party in full effect and drunk digressions about women and his relation to them as well as his friends.
The positive side of the Weeknd phenomena is that it allows grungy dog dudes living a grungy dog lifestyle to be honest about it rather than trying to write uplifting love songs from a sexed up drug haze. By Myself feels all the way real and raw with frank emotional discussion about violence “I didn’t shoot you wear you stood….yes compassion makes me weak I look back as you flee, the N’s I came with ain’t me” in a way Villz wouldn’t be able to accomplish if he was trying to do shirt off in the rain R&B. The nonsense voicemail skit at the end of the song can be skipped.
The vibe on Till The End of Summer is intoxicating (see Shooter) which keeps it so listenable. I had to listen to it several times before I could recall lyrics. Villz makes hooks that don’t overpower the lyrics or tapestry of layered sound he spits over. It’s a marvelously unified presentation by someone I had never heard of; which could probably be said for most of my favorite mixtapes this year.
The high point of Till The End of Summer is Break Up Song (Break The Rules is so good though) which really showcases the unique writing style of Villz who is great at saying important things with very blunt phrasing like “We don’t want to play no games. I’m a simple person. F#$% me good and I’ll call you again.” When he croons “she stay trippin’ on some simple sh$t” the emotion is still there in his voice even through the croaking robot effects. He charges the words with the sadness he needs them to have.
Making something short succinct and flawless is a great calling card. Villz seems to have an eye for quality control and a big picture ability to structure his thoughts. Eight songs wouldn’t usually cover this kind of ground; from gun violence to dependency. I hope he keeps the people who helped him make this (William Wolf, Ducko McFli, Syksense, Sage Tune, and Mike Ewing) so he can build on it.
stream or download Till The End of Summer below:
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Tagged datpiff, Ducko McFli, mike ewing, mixtape review, R&B, Sage Tune, Syksense, The End of Summer, Till The End Of Summer, Villz, Weeknd, william wolf