Musically, 2014 has started off pretty promising. I’m not sure if this year will top last year in terms of the really, really good Hip Hop that came out throughout 2013, but if this mix tape is any indication, it could come close. Through HipHopDX.com, I found out about trio After The Smoke and their latest mix tape/EP called Microwaves. And I can honestly that I’ve received my first surprise in terms of music this year. Yeah, it came out in late 2013, but since I’ve already done my 2013 year-end best of list on Facebook, I’ll go ahead and put this into the Sleeper category for the new year. Microwaves is a hazy, smokey and extremely cloudy listen from start to finish. In terms of lyricism, there’s not a lot being said outside of angst, self-reflection and first world problems, but a few publications have gone as far as to compare this free EP to past music from DJ Shadow and OutKast. And surprisingly, they’re not that far off. This project is filled with some of the most trippy, muddy sounds that I’ve heard from an experimental Hip Hop outfit in a minute. Incorporating lots of sing-songy soul, electronic elements and grimy Trip Hop parts, it’s definitely worth the time of anyone willing to take a listen. Though I’m not really feeling Viola Davis’ voice on “Hit to the Head”, it’s still a respectable track out of 14. “OIAM” has a muddy and sloppy but still tight feel to its makeup. But my favorite track on the entire project, unquestionably, is “D.E.A.D.”: Any song beginning with the lyrics, “Are you bored with life?/ I’m just tryna soothe ya pain, tell me who’s to blame…” is undoubtedly going to be a deliciously druggy, self-loathing guilty pleasure, which it is for me. Like a said, the first sleeper of 2014 in my opinion.
Ok, I’m TRULY not even sure what to say about this one. Apparently Kanye West kicked off his tour by having an actor portraying Christ as part of his live show. Truthfully there are SO many questions that we can come up with from this latest situation from ‘Ye: what was he thinking? What was the purpose? What message was he seeking to impart? Is this an indication he’ll be back to his old musical self? Does he believe what he says in the song “I Am A God” on his latest album? Is this blasphemy? Was it intended to be a joke? Or was it Kanye being serious and forthright? Should we even read that much into it? Is there more to the story? Like I said, SO many questions…and from what I gather there probably won’t be a whole lot of concrete answers, just more gossip and fodder for the TMZ crowd. *Sigh*
A new video for Janelle Monae’s new song “Dance Apocaplytic” is coming very, VERY soon. Even greater is the announcement that she’ll be releasing her new album, Electric Lady, in just a few months time. What can we expect from Ms. Monae? Well, if you know anything about her as an artist, and judging from the big time buzz that she got from the single “Q.U.E.E.N.”, on top of the stunning performance from the BET Awards, you know to expect the unexpected. Or, better yet, just leave any and all expectations at the door because the woman is sure to blow your mind. Yeah, I said it…
Joey Bada$$ is growing on me day by day. His new video and single, “’95 Til Infinity”, is an ode to mid 1990s New York Hip Hop, featuring Joey giving bars through a throaty, grizzly voice over floaty music, giving an interesting contrast to the song as a whole. There’s a real sense that Joey wants to pay homage to the likes of Mobb Deep, Wu Tang, Capone-n-Noreaga and others that made NYC great right before the new millennium. Glad to know there’s much much more to come from this emcee.
A friend put me up on this band just a few months ago, and since my initial introduction to them, I’ve found out a lot about Portugal. The Man. Lots of interviews with them reveal somewhat of a disdain for the mainstream music industry, but they are still managing to find a degree of success. This track from their latest album, “Evil Friends”, has a combination of a big band/driving southern rock feel to it that’s pretty hard to resist. The horns on the chorus compliment the lead singer’s switch ups between a high-pitched falsetto and a more subtle, stoic drawl. All in all, a pretty good song.
J. Cole is an interesting emcee in a number of ways and his new album, Born Sinner, which will be hitting stores soon, is probably the most anticipated Hip Hop album of 2013. But what sets Cole apart, in my personal opinion, is the fact that he owns being part of a new generation of emcees that are now beginning to both sample from classic Hip Hop music from the past, as well as doing samples OF samples. The latest example is his song “Forbidden Fruit” featuring Kendrick Lamar, in which he uses the same sample that iconic Hip Hop trio A Tribe Called Quest used on their song “Electric Relaxation” from the Album Midnight Marauders, which ironically was first released 20 years ago. J. Cole is infamous for sampling Biggie, Lauryn Hill, Kanye West and many more past a present superstars o Hip Hop. And “Forbidden Fruit” uses the sample of Ronnie Foster’s “Mystic Brew” just as effectively as Tribe did back in 1993. It’s way too early to tell whether Born Sinner or “Forbidden Fruit” will reach the status of classic material that ATCQ’s music did back in the day, but there’s no denying that Cole uses his position as a leader of the new school (no pun intended…maybe) to create his own brand of sought after Hip Hop music.
This is a BEAST of a track. I’m going to stop talking right now so you can get the proof.