By Keegan Priest
With her debut album Telefone, Noname crafted a perfect blend of spoken word poetry of bubbly production that created a new standard for what modern jazz-rap is supposed to be and began to popularize the rise of young Chicagoan artists like Saba, Smino, Mick Jenkins. But maturity seemed to be the only thing that was missing in Telefone. However, in Room 25 Noname finds her own voice, extending her talents from Telefone and ends up creating a raw, honest piece of jazz-infused hip-hop that was perfect to the T.
Room 25’s ability to discuss the dark undertones of modern oppression of both blacks and women, as well as Noname’s almost too personal experiences, make the project as important as it is. Through Room 25, we witness Noname one step further to be one of the most influential young hip-hop artist this generation.
At 19 years old, Lindsey Jordan and her 10 song debut LP made gigantic waves in not only the indie-rock scene, but music in general. Just graduating from high school, Lindsey sings of youth and young love with intelligent, catchy songwriting and an incomprehensible vocal range.
Although the album may seem surface level to some, Jordan on this LP does indie music in an extremely clever and emotional way, making it stand out to the others like it in its genre. The angst of “Speaking Terms,” the solemn feelings of a love stricken teen on “Heat Wave”, and the surreal underwater imagery on “Deep Sea” demonstrate Lindsey’s impeccable ability to not only say something so important but to make it sound beautiful at the same time.
Care For Me
Care for Me is Saba’s breaking point. Released shortly after the death of his cousin, Saba’s raw emotion bleeds into every track on the album. Whether it’s aggression on the unsettling jazz-trap song “LIFE” where he frantically yells “That’s life, momma mixed the vodka with the Sprite, they killed my cousin with a pocket knife. While my uncle on the phone, he was gone for more than half my life; he got out a year and then he died” or the exploration of a damaged, confused mind on the opening double track “BUSY/SIRENS,” Saba pours his grievances into each track. The production, which is credited to Saba himself and fellow producer DaeDae Pivot, is constructed all so intricately and plays as a perfect accompaniment to not only Saba but the subject matter as well. Coming from the growing Chicagoan jazz-rap scene, Saba pulls features from Chance the Rapper and the Mind. Chance, being one of the biggest hip-hop artists in 2018 isn’t able to flaunt his fame on the track “Logout” like you think he would. Saba out raps Chance at every point of the track, and instead of it being a Chance the Rapper track, it became a Saba track. And that is what is so impressive about the project. Saba’s inability to be overshadowed… his charisma and genuine storytelling can shine through the best of our time, to the likes of Chance the Rapper.
A dark, disco-packed reflection on the black experience. Multi-instrumentalist Dev Hynes has dominated contemporary electronic music throughout most of the 2010s, and with Negro Swan Hynes delivers his most important and decisive piece yet. The compositions on the album range from two to twenty-two pieces, showing obvious influences to modern R&B and classic disco music, as well as 21st-century chamber pop. But Hynes grand composition goes in juxtaposition to his personal storytelling. Negro Swan is an exemplary documentation of exploration of queerness in both black culture and American society as well.
Feature to feature, everyone had heard Kali Uchis name. Gaining popularity on Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy with the track “See You Again” and Daniel Caesar “Get You”, people knew the voice but had no solo music to attach it to. But on Isolation, we finally get a taste of what real Kali Uchis is. Her beautiful and soulful voice and the lavish instrumentation makes this album one of the best neo-soul records of the year. Production credits range from Tame Impala to Tyler, The Creator, and there never is a sleepy instrumental. Some songs contain disco-based soul riffs, some are completely 80’s inspired, and some pull directly from modern R&B.
Kacey Musgraves does Taylor Swift better than Taylor Swift can. On her 6th studio album, Musgraves finds the perfect blend of country, pop, and soul and makes one of the sweetest sounding albums of the year.
The attempts to create a pop appeal from a country artist like Taylor Swift haven’t ever been done as well as Kacey Musgraves. Each song on Golden Hour is wonderfully written and well performed. “High Horse” is an upbeat country-fusion track about an inflated ego, “Butterflies” is a slow guitar ballad with catchy synthesizers about new love. The production is sweet, but Kasey’s voice is sweeter. Her vocals are unmatched by most popular artists nowadays. Musgraves revives the dying genre of country and proves that good country music is able to happen.
Rap like this is messy. It’s not clear-cut, and sometimes it can be really difficult to listen to. Veteran isn’t an exception. There are plenty of stigmas around experimental hip-hop, but with the rise in popularity of artists like CLIPPING. and Death Grips, upcoming artists like JPEGMAFIA have become more and more welcomed to the mainstream. But rightfully so, for JPEG finds the perfect medium of between experimental and accessible.
The intro song “1539 N. Calvert Ave”, a dedication to the drug store he grew up at, is a trendy, unorthodox, pop-trap beat that uses the kick drums instead of high-hats. The off kilter drums paired with Peggy’s sporadic delivery create a track with both style and character. JPEGMAFIA will slowly integrate noise based hip-hop into popular culture, and Veteran shows exactly how.
Boy in Jeans
Brockhampton affiliate Ryan Beatty presents us with a modern soul rendition that will leave you with both an earworm and a heartache. Each track contains lively synthesizers while Beatty serenades his way through the album.
“Party’s Over” is a strong ballad that functions as the climax of the album, where Ryan Beatty tells his love interest about how he comes to his party’s just to interact with him. Beatty’s ability to express honest feelings of homoerotacism and queerness in standard love songs is a skill that many in the genere lack. But Ryan Beatty creates a love story like no other over 14 wonderfully done tracks
The 15-minute visual album from rapper/singer Tierra Whack is both weird and amazing. Each song, specifically crafted to be one minute in length, are silly, catchy and full of personality. For every song, another completely different visual is crafted, with sitcom-like sets and playful cinematography. The problem is, they’re all too short. Too many times do you catch yourself being disappointed in a short finish and become hungrier for more. But she never overstays her welcome, usually it’s one hook and one verse. The hooks become so catchy that one must listen to the song over and over again to remove the earworm. Whack’s versatility and ability to captivate us with practically snippet length tracks has many hopeful for her future discography.
When being interviewed about the album on the Breakfast Club, a popular hip-hop oriented radio show, Denzel Curry spoke personally about sexual abuse and molestation as a child. The album title, Taboo (Stylized Ta1300) is in reference to the gray-oriented parts of our life, and the complexities of a tortured mind. Ta13oo is an analysis of personal trauma and human morality. Split into three parts, the light, the gray, and the dark. In each of the parts, Curry’s mood and subject matter change drastically, switching from the light dance-rap track “CASH MANIAC” to the eerie “CLOUT COBAIN” and finally to “VENGEANCE,” a track full of frantic yelling and an extremely aggressive bass. Curry has album after album made meaningful and well-done trap music that has shown what the genre can be, and Ta1300 is no exception.
K.T.S.E – Teyana Taylor
KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
ASTROWORLD – Travis Scott
Clean – Soccer Mommy
Hive Mind – The Internet
Soil – Serpentwithfeet
EVERYTHING IS LOVE – THE CARTERS
Cannonball! – Sen Morimoto
Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae
Be The Cowboy – Mitski