Hip Hop

Drogas Light (CD)

Lupe Fiasco returns with the uniformly-strong Drogas Light, which features guest turns from Ty Dolla $ign, Rick Ross, and Big K.R.I.T. There are a few down-tempo, low-key party jams but the rapper is at his best when he comes out with guns blazin’ on standout tracks “Tranquillo” and “Made in the USA.” The production and instrumental tracks are silky smooth, innovative, and very easy on the ears — Lupe’s rhymes are solid, but these elements really kick the LP up a few extra levels. This is Lupe’s first independent release after parting ways with Atlantic; the level of creativity here is all the evidence fans need of the rapper’s newfound freedom.

Read more
Run The Jewels 3 (CD)

El-P and Killer Mike return with another gorgeous, hard-hitting turn as Run the Jewels. The beats are cinematic and distinctive; the lyrics are bold, political, and timely. The genius of the LP is in its seamless blend of thought-provoking lyrics, whip-smart production, and seriously catchy songwriting. Run the Jewels 3 is top notch work and features an equally excellent crew of guest artists, including Danny Brown, Kamasi Washington, Joi Gilliam, Trina, Boots, and Tunde Adebimpe.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more