Music

Beyond The Surface: Rapper’s Delight

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At the top of the month Hip-Hop artist, Vince Staples, released his third album FM!. FM! is a lot more hyphy than the artist's previous work, Big Fish Theory, but rightfully so; the artist has more songs centered around his street mentality, which is all about survival, and the West Coast influence is sonically prevalent throughout the album. Tracks "Run the Bands" and "Tweakin'" are my favorites at the moment. FM! is available on all major streaming platforms.
On the 9th, rising rap star, Cupcakke, released her sixth studio album, Eden. On Eden, cupcakKe showcases her penmanship and dynamic flow while discussing an array of things. "PetSmart", "Dangled", and "Starbucks" are my top 3 from the well-made project. Eden is available on major streaming platforms.

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Conscious North Philly artist, Hprizm aka High Priest, released his third studio album deliberately entitled, Magnetic Memory. The album is very soothing in fused sound with its rather aggressive intent to wake up the chosen ones. All conscious artists desire to do such a thing, but along with telling us what to do, Hprizm tells what to overcome. My favorites are "Infusion", "Asia", and "Electric Ladyland". Magnetic Memory is available on major streaming platforms.
A$AP Rocky released his single "Sundress" along with a visual earlier this week on the 20th.
On the 25th, King Draft dropped the visual for his single "Make Sen$e" which features Kelly Kale. The single is the first off Draft's album, Two Eyes, to have visual representation.

Beyond The Surface

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On the 8th, smittened Smino, released his second studio album, NOIR, an ode to his "life being a black ass movie". The versatile rapper delivers scatted verses that tell-all about his highs and lows as of late, mentioning partying, casual relationships, heartache and hardship. NOIR is full of timeless sounds, from jazz and caribbean influences to galactic effects and latin flavor. The album is available on all streaming platforms.
Anderson .Paak released his second single from his upcoming album, "Who R U?", which takes on a much different sound than "Tints". Both singles will be featured on his upcoming album Oxnard which is available for pre-order now.

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Upcoming rapper, Kash Doll released a visual for her new single, "Ice Me Out". The single is separate from the rapper's Brat Mail mixtape, released in March.
Dreamville, Princess, Ari Lennox released two jazzy love songs this week. The artist, known for her candid approach, sings about wanting to "pull up" and get choked out-- during sex of course. She makes it's sound so dreamy though. "Grandpa" and "40 Shades of Choke" are available on major platforms along with "Whipped Cream".
Artist: Khalid
"Better"
Album: Suncity
On Things Could Be Worse rising Hip-Hop artist, Alex Aff speaks on life post-transition from Durham to Charlotte, NC-- a move made in hopes of "getting rich quick". Instead, the artist was met with obstacles and resolved friendships, but in turn used love, and the "little things" as his solace. Things Could Be Worse is self-recorded and produced, therefore takes on Aff's signature raw, coasting sound. The album is available on major stream platforms.
Known Hip-Hop Producer, 9th Wonder brought out the Jamala Squad with the recently released 9th Wonder Presents: Jamla is the Squad II, a sequel to part one, released in 2014. The project, mostly Hip-Hop, is dense in appearances, featuring the likes of J. Cole, Rapsody, Busta Rhymes and to my surprise, King Draft.

Beyond The Surface

Anderson Paak's "TINTS" visual dropped earlier this week. The song will be featured on his upcoming album, Oxnard, set to drop on November 16th.
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On the 26th, upcoming soul singer, Herizen, released an experimental album entitled Come Over To My House. The album is her first official EP and on it the hipster displays her musical versatility. Herizen metaphorically discusses day-to-day obstacles in relating to one's self and others. Come Over To My House is available on major streaming platforms.
Joji shares the official visual for his Ballads 1 single, "Wanted U". Like his music, the "Wanted U' visual is almost transcendental.
The official visual for Reason's "Situations" dropped last month. The single is off the TDE artist's latest album, There You Have It.
On October 17th, Asian Doll, released So Icy Princess months after the trap queen became a part of rapper, Gucci Mane's label, 1017 Brick Squad Records. So Icy Princess is the rising rap star's proclamation as the first lady of the label and reiteration that she is the hardest "Doll", ahead of other female artists with the stage surname. The album is true to the trap genre; for the most part it is upbeat and aggressive. Asian Doll raps mostly about her South Atlanta roots, desire to get money, and street beefs. So Icy Princess is available on all streaming platforms.
Teyana Taylor released a super intimate visual for her single "Gonna Love Me" which is one of eight Keep That Same Energy tracks.
Lord JaH-Monte released a simple visual to accompany his single, "Uber Uptown" from his recently released album #BestRapperCLT (Real Life 3).

Beyond The Surface

On the 12th, upcoming RnB singer, Summer Walker, released her first full studio project entitled Last Day of Summer. Summer, who makes music for the fluidly feminine, type-A, hopeless romantic woman that will flip the script with little notice, reveals her own psychological views of how love should go. The young artist relates to many women in her desires to be free in love, not leashed to societal or superficial standards. She also presses the taboo topic of role reversal on the album's first single, "Girls Need Love", wanting it to be socially acceptable for women to assume the role of the aggressor if they choose. Overall the album gives off trap-soul vibes. Last Day of Summer is available to all platforms.
Jay Pluss, released his single "On One"exactly a week ago, just months after his project, Triple Blackness. On his new single, Jay (+) talks about laying low and mapping out his major comeback.
On the 25th, Amber Mark shared the official visual for her feel-good track "Put You On" which features rap artist DRAM.
Known soul singer, Daniel Caesar, shows us his wild side with his sexy new single "Who Hurt You?".
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Khalid released his second album, Suncity days ago on the 21st. The album, seamless all around, is an open letter to the upcoming star's hometown El Paso, Texas, its latin influence sprinkled through out the album in various ways. On Suncity, Khalid celebrates being a light. What can be seen as a plague of misunderstanding is actually a gift. The singer celebrates finding the correlation between life, experience, growth and love. The album is another fusion project, off-centered between RnB and Pop on the genre spectrum. Suncity is available on all streaming platforms.
Lord Jah-Monte OGBON, brought us more "King Callis" vibes with the release of #BestRapperCLT (Real Life 3). While the rapper has chosen to go by his birth name, he remains the same in essence. The name change was essentially the embodiment of integration; the rapper continues to rhyme about his origin, destination, and everything in between. On #BestRapperCLT, Lord Jah-Monte talks about simultaneously navigating different avenues with one eye open, carefully avoiding pitfalls of the past. The lyricist is aggressive in his delivery of threatening punch lines over delicately classic lo-fi beats-- definitely a vibe.
Lost, released on the 18th, is compilation of Brent Faiyaz mixed emotions. The RnB artist is a product of a brutal environment, yet remains in tune with his emotional body. On Lost, Brent unbottles his unsettling feelings about the space between his current position and end goal. In the process of sorting through those feels, life continues to happen to Faiyaz, causing his anxiety to boil over and seep into other areas of his life. The troubled artist sings about his fear of "opps" or gold-diggers, while deeply longing to dedicate himself to a woman that will love him at his lowest. The contemporary project has 90's RnB and rock undertones and signature euphoric transitions. Lost is available on major streaming platforms.
RnB artist Amerie, who has been missing in action, has resurfaced with a double side album, Side A entitled 4AM Mulholland and Side B entitled After 4AM. On the double sided project, Amerie gives way to the idea of loving now and thinking later. Sometimes that means rehashing a failed relationship, dropping our bags ("hoes") at the door, and always ignoring the possibilities of failure. While both sides are about the same thing, they take on different sounds. I prefer Side B for its fluidity and natural tones. The album is available on all streaming platforms.

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Beyond The Surface

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On September 21st, upcoming RnB singer, Mahalia released her second studio project, Seasons. The project is a long time coming with the debut of Never Change being over 3 years ago. Mahalia has managed to stay relevant and grow her fan base through collaborative works, the steady release of singles, touring and social media. Her EP, Seasons is all about "love"-- except maybe it is really about an unhealthy attachment. The collection of well written songs highlight common feelings of inadequacy and abandonment, and the tendency to ignore them for the sake of maintaining a connection. Seasons is available on all streaming platforms.
About 2 weeks ago, Dreamville artist, JID released "151 Rum", a track about his reality that highlights lyricism and flow. The rapper also made an appearance at the COLORS studio where he debuted another single, "Working Out". JID's latest album, The Never Ending Story dropped last March. Since then the artist has been pretty low-key, occasionally mentioning studio time on twitter in between live performances. I'm predicting the release of a full project within the next year.
This week Kelela released a remixed version of her October 2017 album, Take Me Apart.
In September, Nigerian Native, Obi released a groovy afro-rap track entitled "Mood". On the song he and featured artist, Lasgidi air lustful experiences shared with various women.
Anderson Paak and Kendrick Lamar team up to gift us with a funky hit about maintaining a private life within the limelight.
Upcoming soul singer, Hunnah, finally shares the official visual for her single, "Think About It". The release of unresolved feelings is visually represented by ridding herself of the physical reminders.
On the 4th Jaden Smith released his trap-techno single "GOKU", the Dragon Ball Z reference serves as a metaphor for Jaden's personal growth and life progression-- a message I can get behind.
Justine Skye's "Build", released just days ago, speaks on a woman's burning desire to manifest the man of her dreams in place of men that disappoint and waste time. Justine vows to channel her energy into building herself up instead. The track features upcoming artist, Arin Ray, who can also be heard on Earthgang's latest song "Stuck".
Earlier this week, singer-rapper IAMDDB shared the official visual for her single, "Kurr£ncy" which is one one of 8 tracks on her album Flightmode, Vol. 4, released in June.
Soul singer, Elle Varner has returned with the release of her single "Love You Blind". It comes as no surprise that the song is about love, specifically not rush into it to avoid deceit, but the country sound the track takes on is certainly unexpected. While this sound seems unusual coming from Elle, I've decided to see it as one of her many branches.

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Beyond the Surface

On the 21st, Lupe Fiasco's seventh album, Drogas Wave was released a week before its proposed date. As expected the album is lyrically and musically impressive. The 24 track album is dynamic sonically, hosting a variety of sounds-- whether it be through Lupe's chosen style of delivery, production, or the inclusion of other genre artists. With Drogas Wave, Lupe takes a fictional route in highlighting truths about slavery and it's lasting affects on world culture. Execution practices such as throwing slaves overboard while at sea and baiting slave babies to alligators, colonization, and miseducation of "blacks" are remembered in the fabricated tale about a group of slaves dying at sea, but return in spirit. The album progresses to shed light on the continued efforts against "blacks" post slavery-- ie, drug wars, and the material manifestations of the psychological effects of slavery, ranging from lack of self knowledge to gang violence, and even diet. Lupe highlights the widespread controversial notion that the indigenous race is the Creator's people, referring to curses spoken about in multiple religions and our connection to celestial bodies. I think Lupe deserves a grammy for this one. Drogas Wave is available on all streaming platforms.
Earthgang and Arin Ray teamed up to turn out a love song about a sticky situation. "Stuck" overall sound is reminiscent of Outkast.
I am (an EP) is RnB star in the making, Symphani Soto's, first official project. On I am, Symphani melodically uses her vocal range to speak on a push and pull affair. The project is available on all streaming platforms.
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Day's after the release of his album, 6lack shared the visual for the album-titled single "East Atlanta Love Letter". Future appears in the video to perform his fervent portion of the collaboration. Read more about East Atlanta Love Letter.
Earlier this week Jorja Smith's "On Your Own" visual was made public. The single is off her sensually melancholic album Lost & Found, released June of this year. With few moving parts, the "On Your Own" visual is still eye-catching.
A week ago Masego took a public poll to determine which song from his recently released album to shoot a video for; on the 20th, the jazz musician delivered the official video for "Old Lady" as requested. Learn more about his album, Lady Lady.
The official video for Ella Mai's "Trip" went viral on the 18th. The director takes a simplistic approach, capturing beauty shots of the singer on various sets. "Trip" along with Ella's other smash hits will be featured on her self-titled album Ella Mai set to release on October 12th.

Beyond the Surface

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"Better" is Khalid's first single after the release of his debut album, American Teen last year. On the track the rising RnB star sings about a love formed in friendship.
6LACK's sophomore album, East Atlanta Love Letter is just that, the gathering of thoughts in the name of love. The artist airs his vices that have a history of getting in the way of what he really wants. The performance, made public on the 14th, definitely gives the likes of Bryson and mainstream artist, Drake, a run for their money. Though there's plenty of room for all the artists, it certainly makes the anticipation of blended genre releases more exciting. Overall, East Atlanta Love Letter is fluid and solid.
After two years of seclusion, Noname returned on the 14th with her sophomore album, Room 25, a collection of Hip-Hop ballads that tell it like it is. Even with the all the alliteration and allegorical metaphors, the artist's stance is explicitly made: She can rap and America ain't shit. The lyrical activist psychologically dissects the ongoing offenses against indigenous people, insinuating that there is a need for systematic oppression and hate projection to progress political agendas such as the matrix. "Under one god" officials are sedated and manipulated into believing that unjustified murder is on the endless list of things that qualify for repentance, completely eliminating concepts of morality, righteousness, and accountability from christianity. And in the midsts of state of emergency trauma the bottom 90% are encouraged to (temporarily) buy back their happiness from the top 1% -- classic.

Just as the political bologna begins to digest, Noname feeds us truths about her innerworld. The artist accounts for her silent disappearing act, revealing the causes of her depression that drove her to alcoholism.

On the 11th, Dreamville artist, Lute dropped two freestyles. Listen and read along below.

[Intro]
We recording?
Gotta put some respect on my name!
Let's get it
LETS GET IT

[Verse]
When that money hit the bank I buy the hooptie instead of Gucci
Wood grain with the blue tooth, bumpin' Juicy
Mama used to tell us that money don't grow on trees
Now a nigga makin' paper off discarded loose leafs
Truth be, I'm tired of provin' I could rap to niggas
'Till I slap a nigga, he come back with niggas
Then I get to cappin' all these wack rappin' niggas at the same time
Never gave a fuck about what ain't mine, peace of mind
I be sleepin' fine but you still gotta keep an eye
Twenty reasons why, glove box where I keep the 9
Watchin' niggas shine when the light is lime, fuck you mean
Been that nigga since Girbaud jeans, I was 16
Some days I wondered if my days were numbered
Some days I wish I knew what I know now when I was younger
Head above the water line, I'm older, shit can't take me under
Even though I'm swimming in my thoughts, nigga
So much on my mind, surround yourself with those who rock with ya
Plot with ya
Cause same niggas dap me up, would never confront me
I hear more 'bout me from them, through mutual company
Funny how this whole time these niggas thought the goal was money
Meanwhile, niggas on the Gram to hide the fact they bummy
If only niggas focused on the craft, then what you seek is given
Fifteen hundred likes on Instagram and niggas think they did it
Nigga please, that's how much my rent be
Plus my livin' fee, then my Jordan [?]
That's three grand a month, y'all matching to buy a gram of weed
Mind your fuckin' business, I take care of me, fuck you mean
Went from prayin' on my knees to spreadin' my wings, somewhere in between
Must have forgot that I will slap a nigga, ain't your average rappin' nigga
Fuck you mean
So next time you see a nigga chillin', thinkin' that he did it
Tell him he trippin' a thousand likes below the price of livin'
Nigga you broke
Above water now, nigga we afloat
Fuck a boat, I got money now, I should build a moat
You too close, five years ago niggas was a ghost
Be the same nigga sayin' I'ma blow
Damn

[Intro]
This is a homage beat

[Verse]
Head on a swivel, I don't trust nobody at all
Includin' myself, ties I sever off
Cause fake shit be bad for your health
I don't preach, I just keep it real
How can I touch the bases if you don't know how to feel?
Heart full of fear cause you afraid to live, fly on the wall
But you on Instagram reciting hooks by Lil Duval
How can you evolve, if you the one that's stuntin' your growth?
Relyin' on time, in your mind you think the progress is slow
But what's the rush though? I'm just asking for a friend
Same niggas you impress and can you depend?
All be all, but it's not the end, just gotta have trust
I'm all in but you don't think about us
You all about you, and that's cool, but don't tell me how to love
You lack emotion yet my love is potent
You burnin' bridges yet im crossin' oceans
My hand on your thigh, to me that's promise land, im just sayin'
I'm with the shits if you with it too
Forbidden fruit, I take a bite of you
God forbid I lose the sight of truth
Got more to gain but even more to lose
So who I gotta prove I'm that nigga still?
West sides reppin', watch these niggas get to steppin' when I'm unconcealed
Who is you to tell me how to feel?
Head on a swivel, I don't trust nobody at all
Includin' myself, ties I sever off
Cause fake shit be bad for your health
I don't preach, I just keep it real
How can I touch the bases if you don't know how to feel?

Source: Genius

Beyond the Surface

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Soul singer and Dreamville artist, Ari Lennox, intimately shares the ins-outs of a break-up she experienced years ago with her song "Whipped Cream"-- the title reminiscent of her go-to comfort food at the time. Days ago, on the 5th, she shared the visual for the song which beautifully captures the gist of the relationship.
In contrast, IAMDDB's "Drippy" embodies self-worth. This concept is expressed both visually and lyrically as the multi-faceted artist flosses designer gear while eluding to "leveling up" in men. The song is one of eight that can be found on her album, Flightmode, Vol. 4 released in June of this year on all streaming platforms.
Former Danity Kane, then Dirty Money member, Dawn (now solo), shares the visual for her single "Jealously". While the song is a message to her man's lingering ex-girlfriend, the visual is much more abstract, capturing cultural and lighting aesthetics.
Full Moon Bloom is JuztKP's 3rd studio album. Like his other projects he discusses the topics that matter, but tend to get little air time in pop culture. The album opens up with "In the Waters", a song about being reborn with the revelation of self as a "black" man of royal blood. He goes on to discuss his overstanding of oppression as an illusion, touching on the many efforts to keep the indigenous aloof of their cosmic origins and potential. Such efforts include miseducation, drug wars, mass incarceration, mass murder, and contaminated water supply, just to scratch the surface. Like other conscious rappers as of late, JuztKP predicts that divine intervention is near as prophesied in ancient and modern texts. He ties his exoteric gains to those within himself, acknowledging his growth by way love and fatherhood. This West Coast vibe can be found on all streaming platforms.
"Spirit" is one of two love songs that ambient duo, Majid Jordan released on the 7th, almost a year after the release of his album, The Space Between.
"Circles" by Dahlia is a metaphor for isolation-- the result of her neo-soul longing to escape the cycles she keeps finding herself in along with her unhealthy "survival" habits.
"Think About It" by Hunnah was released at the top of summer. On it the RnB artist comes clean about unresolved feelings she's been carrying from a previous relationship.

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Lady Lady, jazz musician, Masego's sophomore album is the ultimate vibe for creative bachelors, centered around intimacy or lack thereof, and full of heart throbbing sensual sounds. While the musician constantly longs for, pursues, and speaks to true intimacy (love), he is actually fearful of it-- poetically revealed throughout the album. His fearful reactions to the possibility of love is easily masked as a healthy appetite for women and excitement, his reasoning for protesting commitment. The timeless album can be found on all streaming platforms.
Guru's Groove is Philly's Jazz Singer, Masie Blu's debut EP. Only consisting of three tracks, the project is a farewell to her once lover and a "hello' to herself. Without the extra baggage, she is more equipped for her spiritual journey to healing and peace-- a message.