Hip Hop

The Mountain Will Fall (CD)

On The Mountain Will Fall, DJ Shadow’s first album in five years, the groundbreaking hip-hop/electronica producer proves he’s still one of the most forward-thinking artists in the game. The atmospheric, instrumental title track opens the album with dreamy, futuristic vibes before launching into the funk-inflected “Nobody Speak,” which features Run the Jewels. German ambient/modern classical composer and producer Nils Frahm makes an appearance on “Bergschrund,” where spaced out washes of sound meet hyperactive textures and beats. The LP finds Shadow pushing the limits even further on his own original compositions, but of course half the fun is guest appearances from the previously mentioned artists, as well as avant grade electro dude Bleep Bloop, bass-heavy experimentalist G. Jones, and bright young UK jazz trumpeter Matthew Halsall.

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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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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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Headnod Suite (CD)

Headnod Suite, Karriem Riggins’ second album for Stones Throw, is lush, gorgeous, and bursting with life. The tracks are contemporary but timeless, jumping from dreamy summer soul vibes to glitch-hop rhythms. The hip-hop producer and jazz drummer has worked with Common (who makes an appearance on this LP), Kaytranada, and The Roots; fans of these artists will likely dig Riggins’ latest. No matter what the season, Headnod Suite will bring some summer into your life.

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