This isn’t a review. It’s more of a “you know what grinds my gears” moment regarding young music fans/critics and today’s mainstream music consumption. Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love is getting some tremendous buzz currently and the social media snowball effect is in play, right alongside J. Cole’s new album. Praise for both at times just has me looking at certain critics and wondering when their appreciation for music started and if they’ve actually heard anything before that date.
While I was slow in being put on to this (it was out in 2014), it’s not entirely my fault. I realize we’ve come to a point where music videos aren’t life-changing events the way they used to be. We don’t talk about them the way we used to. In the visual for Chet Faker’s “Gold”, in what seems like a throwback to when alternative rock videos used to be uber-cerebral, the viewer appears to be peering out of the back of an old car driving down a deserted highway at night. The scene is perfectly set for horror until the first of three immensely skilled roller skaters glide into view and proceed to mesmerize you for the rest of the video, gliding effortlessly down the highway to a steady, bluesy groove.
Rap Revisited is a new series I’m working on where I take some older rap albums that shaped my hip-hop fandom and see how they held up over time in review form. I think it’s only right that Capone-N-Noreaga’s classic, critically acclaimed debut album The War Report be first up.
Growing up in the Bay Area during the east-west rivalry at the time this album was released in 1997, no one around me was checking for this album or for associated acts like Mobb Deep or Tragedy Khadafi due to the beef and regional bias, which unfortunately lead to me not discovering this album until I moved east for college in 2000 (Howard). Coincidentally, C-N-N performed at Howard Homecoming the same year, performing “Bang Bang” and other records just before the release of The Reunion the following month. I copped The War Report out of curiosity, having seen it labeled a classic by respected sources (at the time, literally The Source), and it’s remained at the top of my list of favorite rap albums ever since.
As I jam through this A Tribe Called Quest album, I can’t help but share this gem. I’m listening to it front to back like in the olden days, but I haven’t even made it past track 6. Q-Tip is a genius and Andre 3000 really needs to put a solo LP out and put the kibosh on any doubts that he’s a top tier MC.
Boston’s Dutch ReBelle drops some new heat right on time to carry us through this post-election shock, despair, ambivalence – whatever you’re going through. I will keep it a hundred and warn that the intro build’s a little drawn out and grating on the ear, but it’s worth the wait for this ultimately solid, laid-back head-nod.
Straight out of the San Francisco Bay Area that I call home, The Seshen is a genre-bending band led by singer Lalin St. Juste and they’ve just released their latest album, Flames & Figures, which is definitely worth sitting down with for lovers of music. The Seshen is definitely one of those bands you want to be aware of before they appear on SNL, just so you can say you love their “earlier work”. Check out their album below and show them some support (they’re on tour)!
In case you herbs needed a reminder, Peedi Crakk bends a corner to let the people know he’s still spittin’ like he did during the State Property days, if not even better. Crakk Kills is expected to be dropping sooner rather than later.
From the EP The Chants, Jimmy Edgar and Travis Stewart join forces with UK crooner Jamie Lidell for “U-N-I”, a soulful slow-burner that bangs like a 90’s R&B jam that you forgot about until now.
If you’re a Queens rap junkie like myself, you already know of “Triple Threat”, a little-known Nas, Noreaga and Nature collaboration. DJ Absolut presents a new version for his Mixtape Mondays series that features Nas and Nore minus Nature, but with extra verses in place of his.
All of the best eras in Black music seem centered around and/or have been influenced by periods of immense struggle and it’s both sad and fascinating to see that no matter how much things change, they seem to stay the same, as the old adage implies. With “Melanin”, Maiya Norton delivers a mix of memorable soul records that bring nostalgia to the senses while simultaneously making you think how crazy it is that the same issues Gil Scott Heron and Marvin Gaye were talking about back in the day are the same ones we’re talking about now. Judging from some recent releases, we’re getting back into another politically-charged Black musical renaissance and Maiya Norton chefs up a body of work here that is the perfect companion for what’s to come, taking you through various emotions, from hopelessness (“Home Is Where The Hatred Is”) to pride (“Young, Gifted And Brown”).
“This photo is of my grandmother, Robbie Cook, holding my dad. A few weeks back, emotions were high as I was thinking about the violence exhibited towards people of color. This photo represents that combination of emotions for me. Protective. Feeling the need to reaffirm our value and our lives. Holding tightly. Loving harder.
I play music every day, but I definitely took solace in certain songs, and decided to mix them up and add a few to the list. Some of them uplifted people during the Civil Rights era (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised). Others represent unity (People Everyday). The celebration and the struggle (Sinnerman) of being black in America, and the one thing that pigments our skin: melanin. Open your mind, listen, share, and enjoy.” – Maiya Norton
1. Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
2. Gil Scott Heron – Home Is Where The Hatred Is
3. Marvin Gaye – What’s Happening Brother
4. The Stylistics – People Make The World Go Round
5. Joe Bataan – Young, Gifted and Brown
6. James Brown – Say It Loud
7. Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
8. Arrested Development – People Everyday
9. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled 03
10. Flying Lotus f/ Kendrick Lamar – Never Catch Me
11. Erykah Badu – Soldier
12. Black Star – Brown Skin Lady
13. D’Angelo – Africa
14. Goodie Mob – Free
15. Gnarls Barkley – Who’s Gonna Save My Soul
16. OutKast – Liberation
17. Etta Jones – Good Morning Heartache
18. Nina Simone – Sinnerman