Hip Hop

Awaken, My Love! (CD)

Things move fast in the internet age. Only three weeks ago did Childish Gambino announce his new album and now here it is. His second album, Because The Internet, was more complex and sensitive than any other hip hop album of 2013 as Gambino would jump moods from self-loathing to good humor to long passages of loneliness and 21st century angst. Now, at nearly three years since that album and at the end of the first season of his television show, Atlanta on FX, comes his hotly anticipated third album. In the wave of Kendrick Lamar's and Kamasi Washington's spiritual journey of African-American music that's simultaneously spiritual, retro, and futuristic, Awaken, My Love! shows more influence from George Clinton, Prince, and even King Crimson than it does with the world of modern hip hop. The epic three-part track "Me and Your Mama" opens with a chorus crying out against some new agey rhythms that suddenly cut out amid a glut of drum machines and prog drums that turns the song into classic psych funk by way of gospel. Childish Gambino cries out with real pain "This is the end of us / Sleeping with the moon and the stars" as his voice distorts into a cacophonic echo of insanity. But the song mellows out by the end with a soft melody that feels right at home in the world of The Isley Brothers. "Redbone" is a smaller, less ambitious song that instantly catches you with a simple melody that trots along at a more leisurely mood. Channeling Prince, he turns up his falsetto into a screechy performance that shows off his chops as an R&B singer. The minimal funk gives him a chance to show off his real range that stretches beyond what he's shown on other albums. 2016 has been a great year for hip hop and Awaken, My Love caps the year off beautifully with new directions and more far out ideas than anyone else.

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And The Anonymous Nobody (CD)

De La Soul’s And the Anonymous Nobody is a star-studded affair that’s destined to go down as one of their best. As you’d expect, the album has a classic soul/hip-hop vibe, with gorgeous, confident, and sunshine-soaked tunes — it’s the sound of endless summer. Usher delivers an understated, mature chorus on “Greyhounds,” Little Dragon gets dreamy and smooth on “Drawn,” and Snoop does his thing on the excellent track “Pain." Also on board: David Byrne, Damon Albarn, Jill Scott, Estelle, Pete Rock, and 2 Chainz. The singles are great, of course, but taken as a whole, the album is a luxuriant, vivid LP experience you’ll want to sit down and listen to from beginning to end.

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Yes Lawd! (CD)

On Yes Lawd!, Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge’s debut LP as NxWorries, the duo have crafted a sublime modern soul/funk record. With soaring strings, gritty vocals, and ultra cool cinematic flourishes that sound like the soundtrack to a forgotten Blaxploitation flick, the album manages to sound both super contemporary and like a bona fide classic. Despite its October release date, this is a definite summer record, essential for backyard BBQs, driving with the windows down, and sitting around the pool. .Paak himself has called the collaboration “my best work” and it’s definitely something special; let’s hope these two continue to make beautiful music together.

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Atrocity Exhibition (CD)

Named after both the Joy Division song and the J.G. Ballard novel of the same name, Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition album sounds like the future. This is due, in part, to the Warp Records rapper’s innovative collaborations: you’ll hear the likes of Kelela, Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, Ab-Soul, B-Real, Evian Christ, Schoolboy Q, Petite Noir, Paul White, Black Milk, and The Alchemist making their own unique imprints here. The album is alternatively surreal and stark, touching on elements of trap music, psychedelia, and experimental rap. The overall effect is hypnotic.

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Body Wash (CD)

Los Angeles producer Mndsgn creates beats that are so perfectly low-fi, fuzzy, stoned, and drippy it makes you wish hip hop was always this chill. It's the perfect blend of Zapp & Roger boogie beats and the chill, neo-funk vocals of Toro y Moi. Finally stepping away from the realm of pure instrumentals, Body Wash introduces Mndsgn's spacey vocals that are so smooth and relaxed, it can easily slip you into a trance. It's simultaneously nostalgic and modern, with digitized vocals, ancient drum samples, and bubbling synths. But it's also a total rejection of the computerized, ultra clear productions of today's hip hop. It's experimental, crazy, and beautiful and it will get you moving. From the opening bop of "Cosmic Productions" the sci-fi, anime weirdness pops up with music that gives images of neon colors, large glass windows covered in reflections, and old Toyota Celicas. "Use Ya Mnd (Twentyfourseven)" almost sounds like a deep soundtrack cut from the '80s or even a song from an ancient interactive CD-ROM. The smooth synths don't belong in this era and sound so jarring and refreshing, especially as they embrace all their electronic crunch. "Ya Own Way" plays like a track from a '90s Sega arcade racing game. The funky bass rhythms over the new agey, soft rhythms are simultaneously haunting, but feel perfect against imaginary imagery of low-polygon cars driving in the night. Light up a joint and sit in a soft chair: this album is a trip like no other.

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