Hip Hop

Drogas Wave (CD)

Lupe Fiasco’s seventh LP, DROGAS Wave, comes out swinging. It’s lengthy, clocking in at twenty-four tracks — fortunately there’s no filler on here. Lupe imagine a narrative, an alternate reality in which the slaves who died on the brutal passages overseas are reborn as underwater creatures called LongChains who guide the ocean waves, helping others to freedom. Similarly, on “Jonylah Forever” Lupe reimagines the too brief life of Jonylah Watkins, the infant killed by gunfire in Chicago, and what she would’ve done, how she would’ve made a difference in her community if she lived. Tribute is also paid to drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi on “Alan Forever.” While it may sound dark, there’s a buoyancy to Lupe’s lyrics and a wondrous dreaminess to the melodies. The experience of listening to the full album, one track after another, is a thing of heartbreaking, hope-filled beauty.

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Mi Vida Local (CD)

Atmosphere’s seventh album reflects the ways in which the world – and their place in it – has changed. At times, Mi Vida Local is a heavy album, but it’s far from grim. The album pairs complex subject matter with equally deep beats – ones that show a clear lineage back to the psychedelic funk landmarks from an earlier era.

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Kids See Ghosts (CD)

With all his controversies and perpetual foot-in-the-mouth disorder, we still can’t call it quits with Yeezy. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Exhibit A: Kids See Ghosts, the dark, genre-bending, absolutely entrancing collaboration between Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Pusha T, Yasiin Bey, Anthony Hamilton, and Ty Dolla $ign make appearances and production credits go to the likes of Andre 3000, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), and Benny Blanco. That’s a lot of star power but this is no case of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” The project is atmospheric, addictive, and pretty experimental. This one will stay on your turntable for months.

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ye (CD)

Kanye West's follow up to 2016's The Life of Pablo is, as the cover art would imply, a deeply personal affair. Over its brisk seven songs West compiles another signature collection of well-curated beats to underline his latest self-analytical musings and observations, with guest appearances including Ty Dolla $ign and Nicki Minaj on "Violent Crimes," and Kid Cudi and 070 Shake on album highlight "Ghost Town."

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Redemption (CD)

After suffering a near fatal motorcycle accident in 2016, hip hop artist Jay Rock is back with a new lease on life that is in full display on his third release Redemption. With help from fellow Top Dawg Entertainment breakouts Kendrick Lamar and SZA as well as guests Future, J Cole, and Jeremih, Rock raps about overcoming his latest struggles and becoming stronger in the process in a way that continues to inspire both those from the Watts projects he comes from as well as his growing fan base.

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The Blueprint (CD)

After a brief appearance online, The Blueprint, the latest mixtape from L.A.-based rapper Johnson Barnes III, better known as Blu, is given an official release. For this particular outing Blu has chosen to collaborate with hip hop producer Shafiq Husayn, one third of the production team Sa-Ra Creative Partners, who has previously worked with artists such as Erykah Badu, Thundercat, Ty Dolla $ign, and Kanye West. Decked out in gang culture down to the cover art, the final product serves Blu's smooth delivery well as he delivers an aural love letter to the city they both he and Husayn call home.

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Ta13oo (CD)
Denzel explores topics including molestation, the presidential election, fame, hatred, paranoia, revenge, love, the current state of music, and personal tales of his own near death experiences. Sonically, the album ranges just as widely as its subject matter, making this his most groundbreaking musical performance to date. Read more
Cocoa Sugar (CD)

Scottish trio Young Fathers stand out for their melodic fusion of hip hop, soul, and electronic beats. Perhaps their most accessible album, Cocoa Sugar is still fascinating in its hard-to-define sound while the lyrics touch on social, religious, and political issues, but emphasize emotion. “Turn” and “Toy” boast complicated, anxious synth & rhythm compositions that dance around the vocals. “In My View” is uplifting with a chorus that borders on a pop hook, while “Holy Ghost” has a funky, grinding rhythm that compliments the fast rhymes.

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Gate 13 (CD)

I’ve been a fan of Del since 3rd Eye Vision from Hieroglyphics and even some "Mistadobalina" days. The thing I always like is Del’s smooth delivery which is complimented by AMP Live (of Zion I) on production. Lots of Electro-Funk and smooth hip hop beats to be found on this release.

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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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