Cameron Butler – Voyage To Ataraxia (2017)
I started paying attention to Cameron Butler last year, when he released his loose single, Fight The Funk. Since then, he has shown tremendous growth, not only as a rapper but as a producer, songwriter, and mixing engineer. He’s a prime example of how well DIY can work if you put in the man hours. He wears many hats, but his execution is always clean. VTA is a solid album from front to back. His versatility shines bright, going from psychedelic tracks like Brain – which is one of the best intros I’ve heard this year – to the Caribbean-infused Green. Then you have joints like Mastermind which make you feel like you time traveled back to the early 2000’s when The Neptunes were at their peak. If you dug Tyler The Creator’s new album, give this one a spin; The carefree, feel good vibes are heavy here.
Roc Marciano – Rosebudd’s Revenge (2017)
Roc Marciano’s been moving in the game since 1999 when was affiliated with Busta Rhymes and Flipmode. After years of building a catalog of solo work and an admirable cult following, he provides another solid album with Rosebudd’s Revenge. It’s Roc Marci at his best and most familiar; cinematic soul samples and luxury raps – real pimp shit. Some of my favorite tracks are Move Dope, Marksmen with his Metal Clergy brother Ka, and the Knxwledge-laced No Smoke with Knowledge the Pirate. Marci makes plenty of references to cats who got the game twisted. You know, rappers who want to be pimps, and druggies who think they are drug dealers.
Fly Anakin – People Like Us (2017)
Fly Anakin is a member of rap collective Mutant Academy and based out of Richmond, VA. His flow is distinct and nostalgic; He sounds like that dude who’s ready to wash everybody in a park cypher. There’s a lot of energy and raw talent on People Like Us. With effortless precision, he floats on smokey production from Ohbliv and TUAMIE.
Skyzoo – Peddler Themes (2017)
Brooklyn’s very own Skyzoo drops his new EP. As expected, he brings his high-level pen game, which many feel is refreshing in a climate where catchy hooks overshadow lyricism. My favorite tracks on this one are the !llmind produced Finesse Everything with its slick Jay-Z, Nas and Raekwon samples and ’95 Bad Boy Logo laced by the talented TUAMIE. Let this one tide you over until Celebration Of Us.
What I’ve been listening to this week:
Jodeci – Forever My Lady (1991)
Following in the footsteps of Boyz II Men, Guy and New Edition, Jodeci helped forge a new sound for R&B. Their debut album, Forever My Lady, managed to capture the attention of listeners outside of R&B. This is attributed to group member and producer Devante Swing who drew influence from hip-hop and new jack swing. This gave the album mass appeal, bouncing from smooth and emotional to visceral and upbeat. The production is undoubtedly praise worthy, but the singers’ elevate it to new heights. Their vocal performances are powerful and emotional, which isn’t shocking, because they grew up singing gospel. I enjoyed the vocal arrangement and layering, especially on I’m Still Waiting – the standout track. Overall, this is a classic album which set the standard for future R&B acts.
Persona 5 Original Soundtrack (2016)
Shoji Meguro is a talented video game composer. His versatility is impressive but it never felt engaging enough. He usually picks style over substance, leaving a lot to be desired. The Persona 5 soundtrack is different. It’s definitely stylish but has more weight than his previous work. There’s also a new vocalist, Lyn, who adds some additional soul to the soundtrack. I loved Shihoko Hirata, but I think Lyn’s voice fits the jazzy composition and overall mood on here (I’m also tired of watered-down J-pop music). This is arguably the best soundtrack in the series; This is Shoji Meguro’s magnum opus.
Jun Togawa – 20th (2000)
I recently discovered Jun Togawa while browsing for obscure 80’s music. Experimental and quirky, she’s a stark contrast to most J-pop artists. Her songs are often hit-or-miss but she makes up for it with how fascinating she is. Listening to her music is…fun? 20th is a collection of covers to celebrate her 20th anniversary in the industry. ラジオのように, the jazz-infused cover of Brigitte Fontaine’s Comma a la radio has an infectious rhythm. It’s weird yet catchy. Things hit avant-garde levels on the electronic Finale before entering pop territory on Vanessa Paradis’s Joe le Taxi. It’s a strange musical ride yet I enjoyed it. Jun’s voice is unique but can be unbearable, especially on tracks like Because the Night – a Patti Smith cover – with its scathing, obnoxious production. Togawa is an acquired taste. I’d only recommend her if you listen to music that requires headphones at all times.
What I’ve been listening to this week:
JAY-Z & No I.D. – 4:44
At midnight on June 29th, JAY-Z dropped his 13th studio album 4:44. Produced by the legendary No I.D., it’s another example of how well one rapper/one producer albums can work. 4:44 is, thankfully, heavy on the soul samples, giving it a nostalgic feel all the way through. Much respect to Guru for his incredible engineering skills, too. While the media complained about JAY’s adultery, they glossed over the gems he dropped about the black community. He isn’t the first to mention financial literacy and black accountability. He expressed these ideas on a large platform, and for that, I commend him. We know “black capitalism” isn’t the panacea for systematic racism, but supporting/building black empires is the first step to gaining true independence. Support your black brothers and sisters, y’all.
Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
Ever since Prima Donna, I had a feeling Vince Staples was going avant-garde with his musical approach. Fans complained about him rapping on “weird techno beats” but Vince didn’t budge; He went left-field with no f***’s given. Big Fish Theory is in the same boat as Yeezus (Kanye West), Black Up (Shabazz Palaces), and CLPPNG (clipping). It’s a rap album with vibrant, electronic production. Vince’s performance makes it even wilder; He doesn’t miss a step at all, even on these “weird techno beats.”
Persona 2 Innocent Sin: The Errors Of Their Youth
I’ve always loved the Shin Megami Tensei series because it shook up the JRPG formula. Even before it formed a cult fan base in the West, it always managed to have something crazy going on – like controversial religious themes. The music is a staple, thanks to Shoji Meguro, who I feel is underrated among video game composers. The Errors of Their Youth is a Persona 2: Innocent Sin remix album arranged by Persona 2 composers Kenichi Tsuchiya, Masaki Kurokawa, Toshiko Tasaki, and Yoshiharu Ohta. The house remix of Maya’s theme and trip hop remix of Jun’s theme stood out the most, but overall, this was a forgettable album. It doesn’t have the cohesiveness of the original soundtrack. I’d only recommend it if you can’t get enough of Persona and J-pop.
What I’ve been listening to this week:
Ka – Honor Killed The Samurai (2016)
Ka is becoming one of my favorite emcees from New York City. His songs feel like war stories. His timing with each bar is hauntingly impeccable. And his post-apocalyptic production is chilling. This one isn’t for everybody; go into this with open ears.
Chante Moore – A Love Supreme (1994)
This one is a throwback. I’ve known about Chante Moore, but I never checked out her music. After listening to “Wey U” from the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack, I had to find more music from her.
Casiopea – Flowers (1996)
Casiopea are jazz fusion legends who hail from Japan. I recently discovered how prolific this band was after getting a hold of their discography. At the moment, I am listening to their 1996 album Flowers. Mystic Lie, the standout track, is a work of the gods. It sounds like the final stage for a video game with its revved up, epic guitars and sweeping keys.