Hip Hop


Vince Staples' Ramona Park Broke My Heart is one of the most solid, moving hip-hop albums you're likely to hear this year. It's definitely one of Staples' most introspective and intense. Even the tracks that initially feel like Friday night party bangers have a bittersweet undercurrent for a young life lived on the tightrope between good times and despair. This is a serious, no holds barred chronicle of Staples' experiences in a neighborhood marked by gangs, violence, and poverty; the artist has spoken out about the way others produce and consume street life narratives with a relish for "trauma porn." That's not what Ramona Park is about. This excellent album shows a young man grappling with the ways in which one's past is always present. That he chooses to share that process with us is a gift for fans of intelligent, affecting hip-hop.

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Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3 (LP)

Australian alt-R&B wiz Tkay Maidza stretches her wings on the delightful Last Year Was Weird, Vol 3. Sounding more agile than ever, Maidza’s honeyed voice delivers smart, emotionally impactful lyrics over some of the lushest production you’ll hear this year. Each song feels like its own fantastical world, as Maidza tees up yet another one-two poetic punch before turning into more open-hearted territory, all served up with her distinctive wordplay. This is the indie R&B album you didn’t know your life needed, until you put it on for the first time. Guaranteed to make your day brighter.

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