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-College Girls by P-Lo featuring Skizzy Mars
People who love fun hip pop music were a little let down by Lil Yachty’s debut album Teenage Emotions which turned out to be oppressively long and confusingly muddled with several elements that don’t serve Yachty well. If you are looking for the album to fill what Yachty was supposed to achieve P-Lo has done it with his new album More Than Anything.
It’s not fair to compare Yachty to P-Lo because the latter is a veteran who has worked closely with IAMSU for years and helped build the ratchet sound. P-Lo produces his own music as well as handing out bangers to other people. He knows exactly what works about his sound and builds on it without straying from it.
College Girls is the best example of P-Lo cracking the code on an earwig hit. The autotune isn’t overwhelming; the content is playfully sexual but not insulting. The baseline is amazing. Neither Yachty nor P-Lo are the world’s best MC but both have the ability to give the listener what they want, I vote for More Than Anything not just because it is six songs shorter but it is a tight shot group of the fun P-Lo knows I want to have. All the guests are in the right places. He’s been around too long to worry about proving anything. For P-Lo every song needs to win and as a listener I appreciate that.
Song of The Year-Survivor by Mary J Blige
Mary will always have a special place in my heart. When I was away from home for the first time (out of country) in the Army she had one of the three albums I needed in order to survive (D’Angelo-Voodoo, 2pac-Makaveli, Mary-My Life). That was back in 1999-2002 and in 2017 Mary J Blige has one of the best albums this year. Coming out of a bad relationship that left a lot of emotional scars she fully explores them on Strength of A Woman.
The two names that strengthen the project on the production end are DJ Camper and Brandon “B.A.M.” Hodge. Camper gives the thick, knocking, clean backdrop for the greatest Kanye West collaboration in years (his best verse in a long time) Love Yourself. He also orchestrates the lush piano sound behind her blisteringly confessional Set Me Free. While Camper is credited with 5 of the 14 tracks B.A.M matches him (if you count co-credits). B.A.M. maintains the almost Maybach Music level clean luxury sounds but really kicks up the bass to a satisfying level.
Mary’s songwriting is fearless. Several times you hear things that shock you but her voice keeps you on track. It is kind of amazing how good her voice is at this point in her career. Survivor is the best. On it she occupies this strange space of diva crafting an anthem and humble, grounded artist who feels like a member of your family. As glorious as the song sounds she still can’t take any of the credit and gives it all to God. I can’t tell you why listening to this song for the second time made me tear up. I certainly haven’t survived anything interesting. I would guess that just hearing her strength and knowing it was the same determination from Not Gon’ Cry and I’m Goin’ Down, that unchanged intensity and will to pick things up and move on was just too perfect for me. I think we need to start talking about Mary like we do Jay and stop letting her doubt how important she’s been to all of us.
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Tagged B.A.M., best albums of 2017, Brandon Hodge, DJ Camper, kanye west, Mary J Blige, My Life, song of the year, song reviews, Strength of A Woman, Survivor
Song of The Year-Ispy by Kyle featuring Lil Yachty
Rap should have more genre’s within it, some record stores still dump it in R & B. At this point it is crazy to compare J.I.D- The Never Story or Raekwon –The Wild with Kyle, Yachty, or D.R.A.M. In September of 2013 I wrote up a review for Kyle’s song Fruit Snacks & Cups of Patron which became a big earwig for me (snuck its way in damn near every playlist). My review comments on the divide between radio rap and the denser stuff ” The lyricism barely exists here like animals in the desert, surviving without much sustenance. I don’t really mind, I’ll get my lyricism elsewhere. ” This is how you should look at it. Don’t feel guilty that Kyle and Yachty are experts in making songs that dig into you and never leave. Ispy is a damn good time.
The shocking part of Ispy for me is a line early in the song from Kyle. Out of nowhere Kyle says “That’s a real hot album homie, I wonder who wrote it? Oh shit.” Obviously a down the middle shot at Drake on the biggest hit of Kyle’s career. It is a great example of how flat the rap world is now. Drop this song back in the 90’s and switch Drakes diss for an LL Cool J diss, Cool James would use his industry connections to DESTROY both careers and shut down the wave (he did this with Canibus). He could do that because the music industry really had people pulling the strings and if you had experience you could make someone’s situation untenable.
As of now this song is a smash with a great chorus and it pops up on the right blogs, the right playlists so it can’t be stopped. Your favorite rapper breaks things the same way Kyle does, every single is a penny in the wishing well and you just wait to get what you asked for. The guys on top can’t really do much to control what is said about them, the pressure they can bring to bear is minimal even to someone several tiers down. Did Yachty know about this shot when he first got his spot on the track? Doesn’t matter, as long as he keeps supplying fun music you and your dog will bob its head to, he wins.
I’m glad cause sometimes I just want to relax.
Song of The Year-Young Dumb & Broke by Khalid
I can’t tell you how creepy it is when old critics write about young artists. Read some old Mac Miller reviews from when he was sixteen and a goofball, the venom is crazy. Either these writers pursue younger artists non-stop to feel like they are staying young or take out their world weary perspective on them. I am grateful not to be one of those dudes, a writer yes, an artist but not a critic. I couldn’t care less about capturing the youth experience versus the older experience as long as it is vividly rendered.
That is why Khalid is getting so much attention. His new album American Teen builds a world so complete that you can test the boundaries and it stands. The pure poetry is there (see: Angels). His voice is more Justin Vernon than Marvin Gaye but the tempo shifts enough degrees per song to give you a new slice every track (with fifteen slices).
Young Dumb and Broke is a post-Frank Ocean anthem that harnesses all the energy of those negative arguments used against this generation and sends it back in some brilliantly articulate aikido move. How are you gonna hate this generation when your singing along to an anthem about it?
Do people even think about this stuff? How much better R & B is than it was ten or fifteen years ago? The fact that we have had so many important/influential achievement albums in the genre that the standard by which we judge it has moved up several notches. The music we shrug at could have run the table (nothing wrong with Monica, Ciara, & Donell Jones they saw us through some hard times) in 2006. The reason you find it so hard to know which new music to listen to is because the world is full of cold blooded assassins doing it themselves. New names we need to learn now or be called out by friends eventually. Press play on Young Dumb & Broke because Khalid is one of those names.
Song of The Year-Like A Rockstar by Kodie Shane featuring Saucy Longwe produced by Matty P, Stonii Tha Melody God & D. Clax
Kodie Shane’s new mixtape is called Big Trouble Little Jupiter and it is a great example of why Atlanta WINS. Atlanta is the epicenter of weird (in my opinion the Bay Area is right up there as well). If Kodie Shane dropped a slamming anthem like this in NY the media would start debating whether it stacked up to old EPMD singles or whether this is even rap. What is real hip hop? Yuck.
This hook is fantastic, the beat pounds and leads into a guitar solo. Big Trouble Little Jupiter has 10 songs and they are all experiments. Your Side ventures into that 90’s R &B sound, Be With or Without is a lush break up song over a tough as jerky trap beat. Big Trouble Little Jupiter will look right at your preconceptions and shout WHO CARES. It is rap, it is singing, it is gorgeous, it is ugly.
If you read The Fader article about her it will not surprise you to hear that Shane is aligned with Yachty and the manager of The Migos. Those are all smart oddballs and it is quite apparent listening to Like A Rockstar that Kodie knows how to throw her voice where it is best needed. In this case it is tense and brazen in other places it is smooth and goes down like hot cocoa on a sore throat (how is this my reference? I am so old. So very old.). It is refreshing that we live in a hip hop culture that nurtures an artist like Kodie Shane because I shudder to think how many my generation left behind keeping the sound “pure”.
stream or download Big Trouble Little Jupiter:
Song of The Year-The Space Program by A Tribe Called Quest
2016 is full of classic artists finding new footing: Common, Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, and now Tribe Called Quest. Each one of them when asked is clear that they are inspired by this new generation and wants back in the game. If you doubt this look at the long awaited Tribe album We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service. While it features names you recognize (Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, and Consequence) it features important contributions from new school warriors Anderson Paak and Kendrick Lamar.
If you doubted how durable the Tribe experience is this album will resolve that. The Space Program is a great example of the wicked precision in their craft. The samples hit in the perfect place and feed the vibe which births the verses. The Space Program isn’t a beat with rhymes it is conducted from the laughing sample doubled behind the start of Jarobi’s verse to the hand claps that jump behind Tip as he starts all the way to the Gene Wilder sample that closes it out. These guys operate on a level of intelligence and musical instinct that not only can I not fathom but it leaves my favorite rappers marveling. Lyrically they never get enough credit because the lyrics always fit so snugly into the music(Jarobi is a monster!) ; it always envelopes you as a general vibe.
Tribe didn’t have to do a reunion album where they made music to feed your nostalgia the same way they knew it wouldn’t make sense to jump into this new generation’s music and ape it. The reason for We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is quite simple: Tribe never existed with the zeitgeist. They influenced it from outside(whenever they felt like it), ever since Q-Tip lost his wallet in El Segundo.