Denzel Curry’s music has yet to reach the masses. His aggressive style has helped him find a niche in the rap community, and with “Hate Government [demo]” he continues to embrace it. Possibly taking production notes from Kendrick Lamar (think second half of “DNA.”, when the beat switches), Curry spits over booming bass about his distaste for the government. His flow fits perfectly with the beat, but the track ends far too early at just under two minutes. Hopefully this serves as a teaser for Curry’s next album, Taboo, because it sure builds the hype for his forthcoming project. Listen to “Hate Government [demo]” here and stay tuned to Rainy Dawg Radio for future Denzel Curry news.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2010, you may have a decent idea of who Kendrick Lamar is. Since his official label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city, Lamar has earned himself worldwide appeal as both a popular and conscious rapper. Now, two years since his genre-shattering To Pimp A Butterfly, Lamar has returned to the spotlight with DAMN., a record dense with personal reflection and exemplary production that once again establishes him as one of the all-time greats.
“So I was taking a walk the other day…” Kendrick starts DAMN. off with a short narrative in which he describes his own death. It seems that the remainder of the album revolves around Lamar contemplating his own life, considering if his life would have been worthy of living had he actually died. The album even reverses on “DUCKWORTH.”, the final track, and returns to where DAMN. started off. The song titles cut no corners; each previews the song’s subject matter. “HUMBLE.”, for example, delicately balances on Lamar’s own bravado and the constant reminder to “sit down” and “be humble.” Other tracks cut deeper. “FEAR.” outlines Lamar’s fears, including death’s unpredictability and of losing the fame and wealth he’s earned. The mood throughout the album sways between vulnerable and confident; it’s a blend of what made both To Pimp A Butterfly and good kid, m.A.A.d city unique. Despite relying on similar tones, Lamar delves into new topics and makes DAMN. feel just as unique as his previous two works.
Unlike To Pimp A Butterfly, DAMN. features a departure from jazz rap, rather fusing pop, electronic, alternative, and trap music into a refreshing sound that caters to Lamar’s versatility. The production credits are indicative of such; to name a few, James Blake, 9th Wonder, James Blake, Steve Lacy, and BADBADNOTGOOD all lend their production talents on DAMN. Each song is an otherworldly experience on its own, yet listened to side by side reveal the narrative of Lamar’s latest work. “XXX.” features perhaps the wildest beat switch (one of many) on the album, exploding from a dark, bass-driven beat into a flurry of sirens. Other highlights include “LUST.”, a song empowered by a delayed entry of the drums, and “PRIDE.”, whose guitar chords slow the pace to a melodic crawl.
To Pimp A Butterfly took some time to grow on me when I first heard it. I was initially disappointed because I was hoping to hear more tracks reminiscent of good kid, m.A.A.d city, but instead what I got was vastly opposite. Once I had come around to it, however, I learned that artists aren’t supposed to rely on formulaic music to become successful. Real artists grow and change; they learn and evolve to create new, exceptional music that keeps them one step ahead of the competition. Lamar’s competition, Drake, has fallen victim to this and chosen to stick to what works rather than take risks and mature as an artist. Lamar, on the other hand, continues to grow and surprise his fans, with each new album being more unprecedented than the last. DAMN. is a shining example of such. An album inspired by Lamar’s own life and attitude, it stands alone as a masterpiece and singular experience. Lamar continues to solidify his placement upon the Mount Rushmore of rap, and he will most certainly surprise us all with whatever he has planned next. Listen to DAMN. here.
In case you couldn’t tell by the album’s title, Joey Bada$$ is not merely dropping a typical rap album. Inspired by the late Capital Steez’s AmeriKKKan Korruption, Bada$$ has decided to follow in the footsteps of Pro Era’s former great. Exactly five years to the date after Steez’s album, Bada$$ has delivered a project strongly rooted in the “korruption” in present day America.
ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ features a departure from Bada$$’ typical boom-bop New York sound, favoring a tracklist highlighted by bright production and jazz rap. Long-time producer Statik Selektah produced only two of the twelve tracks on his new album, compared to four on B4.DA.$$. This time around, Bada$$’ producers implement horn sections and electric guitar on a number of tracks, elevating them from decent to fantastic, as well as displaying Bada$$’ adaptability by stepping in a new direction of melody. The middle of the tracklist includes what might be the grooviest sequence of production on an album this year, with “TEMPTATION”, “LAND OF THE FREE”, “DEVASTATED”, and “Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA)” following one after another. The transition from these four tracks to the next two, “ROCKABYE BABY” and “RING THE ALARM”, is completely jarring, but a welcome shift back towards Bada$$ embracing his ruthless lyricism.
The subject matter is surprisingly heavy compared to the albums upbeat production. Much like Common’s Black America Again, ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ addresses issues plaguing American’s African Americans, such as police brutality, racism, and inequality. “Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA)” is reminiscent of an homage to 50 Cent’s “21 Questions”, except Bada$$ questions America’s lack of acceptance towards African Americans. He spits, “Tell me why you don’t love me/Why you always misjudge me?/Why you always put so many things above me?/Why you lead me to believe that I’m ugly?”. Bada$$ doesn’t hold back, and it pays off. The last two minutes of the album are when Bada$$ is at his strongest; he effortlessly dismantles the U.S. government, accusing them of trying to start a civil war between its black and white citizens. He encourages his listeners to unite and fight back, rather than fight each other like he believes the government wants.
Bada$$ hits the mark on every aspect of this album. The production is solid, the guest appearances burst each track into flames, and the themes present relevant issues that need to brought forth time and time again. The focus of ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is much tighter than B4.DA.$$, and its production more versatile. Bada$$ has shown great signs on improvement on his sophomore effort and has proved himself deserving of the national spotlight alongside industry titans like Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Listen to ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ here.
This past Friday saw a hefty number of releases. Rather than attempt to write five or six album reviews this week and promptly self-combust, here are some mini-reviews of my favorite releases from last week.
Stormzy, Gang Signs and Prayer
I came late to the grime scene, but so far it has been merely decent. For those who don’t know, grime is a combination of electronic and hip-hop characterized by hard-hitting English MCs. Skepta’s Konnichiwa was the first full-length grime album I listened, leaving me slightly disappointed but curious about the genre. Stormzy’s new album, Gang Signs and Prayer, has proved that grime is a legitimate genre in the music industry and that it should not be meddled with. Stormzy delivers ruthless lyrics over raw, machine-like instrumentals, never wasting a breath. This album, unlike other grime projects, carefully balances the line dividing typical aggressive grime tracks and soft, stripped-back vocal tracks. Stormzy lends his singing voice on multiple tracks and impresses. Overall, a strong debut for Stormzy that puts an unconventional yet refreshing twist on traditional grime. Listen to Gang Signs and Prayer here.
Steve Lacy, Steve Lacy’s Demo
Two and a half months into 2017 and The Internet has already become very busy. They kicked off a tour last week and have already released three solo projects this year. Steve Lacy is the latest of the band to drop a project, following Syd and Matt Martians. Recorded entirely on his iPhone, Steve Lacy’s Demo sits at six tracks long (or short), and Lacy clarified on Twitter that the project is neither an EP or album, but a song series. Nonetheless, it’s lackadaisical style and lo-fi vibes provide a relaxing listen. Lacy’s guitar leads most of the songs, usually settling for a pairing with the drums or bass and not much else. The lack of variety seems daunting at first, but Lacy makes due with the tools at hand. Steve Lacy’s Demo is a short, sweet intro to The Internet’s youngest member, highlighted by his melodic vocals and lo-fi atmosphere. Listen to Steve Lacy’s Demo here.
Oddisee, The Iceberg
Oddisee continues to strengten his discography with his latest release, The Iceberg. His eleventh studio album tackles poverty, racism, and more ethical issues. He spits lyrics with sincerity and depth, quite possibly taking multiple listens to decipher. The instrumentals include bright horn sections; each song sounds like a crisp live rendition. The climax of the album occurs on “Like Really”, a low-key banger where Oddisee addresses everyday problems minorities face. The Iceberg proves to be another strong release in Oddisee’s ever-expanding discography. Listen to The Iceberg here.
Thundercat finally returns with what will most likely be an album of the year contender, Drunk. At 23 tracks long (only 53 minutes total), Thundercat croons about losing friends, anime, masturbating, cats, and everything in between. He takes what made Apocalypse great (increased use of singing) and what made The Golden Age of Apocalypse great (bass solos and instrumentation) and combines them on Drunk, effectively creating an explosion of clever production and sweet, delicious vocals. Most tracks, unfortunately, are short, but each is still strong enough to stand up on its own. There are a lot of features, too, each which contribute to the song exactly as expected (even Wiz Khalifa, which isn’t really a good thing). Thundercat’s eccentric, unique style plays to his favor again on Drunk, coming through with the best release of the year thus far. Listen to Drunk here.
I saw Noname perform at The Crocodile this past Wednesday. Ravyn Lenae opened for her, and needless to say they were both incredible. I had been anticipating this concert for quite some time now (I ordered the tickets in November), and the night had finally arrived.
First things first, I had also bought meet and greet tickets for my lovely girlfriend in an effort to blow Valentine’s Day out of the water. For the most part I think it was a success. She was excited to meet Noname, as was I, of course. Unfortunately, we both had different reactions to talking to her in person. She was so nervous that her mind started racing, asking Noname-whose real name is Fatima-question after question. This was a godsend, because I was so nervous that my mind drew a blank and stood there sheepishly, only mustering the courage to introduce myself and say “yes” a few times.
After a photo op with Fatima, it was time for the concert. Unbeknownst to me, there was an act before Ravyn Lenae. Local Seattle rappers Nyles Davis and Mo Money got the show started, but not exactly as I had expected. Noname and Ravyn Lenae’s musical styles both exude peacefulness and don’t try to be in your face. Davis and Mo Money were both accurate reflections of what rap is becoming: repetitive lyrics over bass-heavy beats. Their music reminded me a lot of Lil Uzi Vert, my least favorite rapper in the game right now. Mo Money also got really sweaty and it was flying everywhere, so that didn’t help his set improve.
Finally, the time came for the actual concert to start, and Ravyn Lenae came out. And let me tell ya, her voice was jaw dropping. I knew it was good when I listened to her music on Spotify, but it was probably even better live. Each song she performed had multiple vocal inflections where she would change the note while she belted out a single word or sound. My previously hefty expectations had been exceeded somehow and I was witnessing an angel on stage.
Lenae also took the time to explain the meaning behind each song before she performed it. I had listened through her Moon Shoes EP multiple times, but had never taken the time to thoroughly listen to it and pull the meaning from each song. I found myself listening much more intently, trying to connect the lyrics to the explanation she had given just a few minutes earlier. Also, she put the mic in front of my girlfriend to sing a part of a song, but evidently the pressure was overwhelming and she could only sing for a split second before laughing it off. To be fair, I would’ve done the exact same thing, and Ravyn probably would’ve gotten the whole crowd to make fun of me because I can’t sing as well as her. That may have been why she did it in the first place.
Lenae’s set ended after about 45 minutes and it was time for the headliner, Noname. Her debut album Telefone was one of my favorite albums of last year. It was meaningful, perfectly produced, and it introduced me to a female rapper that I actually enjoyed (sorry not sorry Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea). Noname’s band was the first to come on stage, performing a few minutes of smooth instrumentals before Noname came out to open with “All I Need”. To my relief, she sounded exactly like she did on Telefone. The live band was a great addition; Davis, Mo Money, and Lenae all performed over recordings of the instrumentals to their songs (Davis actually rapped over recordings of his songs with the rap recorded too, so he didn’t have to work as hard). Noname performed Telefone in its entirety, as well as her verses for Mick Jenkins’ “Comfortable” and Chance the Rapper’s “Lost”. Ravyn Lenae joined her on stage and they performed “Forever” together, which was easily the best moment of the night. Noname’s discography still has some growing to do, because she ran out of music to perform after half an hour. Despite the short set, Noname was excellent on stage and had the audience captivated the whole time.
The concert as a whole was great. The surprise openers got the concert off on a sour note, but Ravyn Lenae and Noname more than made up for the openers’ slip-ups. Both either performed exactly as in their recordings or far beyond what I had expected. Once they expand their discography there will only be more demand for them to go on tour again, and I look forward to when that day comes. Check out each artist’s music below.
Noname – Telefone
Ravyn Lenae – Moon Shoes EP
Only a week after her bandmate Matt Martians dropped his solo debut The Drum Chord Theory, Syd has come forth with her own solo debut, Fin. The former Odd Future member has been all over some of last year’s biggest releases, featuring on Common’s Black America Again, Kaytranada’s 99.9%, and Little Simz’s Stillness in Wonderland. The time has come for her to release new music of her own, and needless to say it was worth the wait. Fin is a smooth, sensual ride that may not take many risks, but lives up to the hype of what listeners have come to expect from Syd.
The album takes off with what might be one of the best tracks, “Shake Em Off”. Syd addresses feeling frustrated and doubted by her haters, choosing to shake them off rather than give into the criticism. Syd rides over bubbly production accompanied by hard hitting percussion. The standout factor, however, is her voice. Syd consistently sounds angelic over the course of the 12-track album, utilizing falsetto tones and slightly lower vocals to showcase her incredible range. Her ability to carry a song on her own is apparent, yet some tracks include background vocals, like “Insecurities”. On these tracks, Syd remains the primary voice, and the background vocals only tend to come in for the chorus. They weren’t necessary for any song, but the addition adds a certain lushness to them that is more than welcome.
The album’s tone is surprisingly sexy. Multiple songs detail Syd romanticizing about women (“Drown In It”, “Body”, “Know”) or describing a trip to the strip club (“Dollar Bills”). Other songs go in opposite directions, favoring heavy beats as the driving force (“All About Me”, “No Complaints”, “Got Her Own”). This album, like Matt Martian’s, lacks a concept; some songs share themes but none of them can be connected as a whole. None of the songs take many risks sonically either; most can be traced back to other artists and a few could be mistaken for b-sides from The Internet. Syd’s otherworldly vocals make every song feel refreshing and new, despite her borrowing elements from present day hip-hop and her band.
Fin is a prime example of why more artists in group acts should be pursuing solo careers. While she does not try to convey a complex message or theme, Syd creates a collection of songs that are just flat out fun. One can’t help but sway to every song. Her melodic voice lifts each track to another level of sensuality and bliss, leaving the listener foaming at the mouth for more. Syd did herself and her fans a favor by leaving Fin nearly empty of features (Steve Lacy on “Dollar Bills” and 6LACK on “Over”). It’s time for Syd to be in the spotlight, as she has proved on this album. Listen to Fin here and catch Syd opening for her band, The Internet, on March 17 at The Neptune.
Oscar winner Juicy J wrecked my soul at The Neptune Theater last night. Oh yeah, yes, it’s true, Juicy J and Leonardo DiCaprio have the same number of Oscars.
Project Pat brought out Nasty Mane and they performed some
booming bass music with predictable yet catchy lyrics.
Belly came out next. Never heard of him before. He does boast a bit of a belly though, which could point to the origins of his stage name. His
real name, according to the internet, is Ahmad. Further perusal of the internet
reveals that Belly was born in Palestine. Diversity! Yay!
Okay, that’s enough with the facts. Here’s more opinion:
Belly’s set was damn good. I now follow him on Spotify. His song with Travis
Scott bangs confirmed.
Then the stage was empty for a while. Anticipation hung in
the air thicker than the sweat—and there was a butt ton of sweat.
Juicy J is a distinguished dude with an enviable career—Three 6 Mafia
and an Oscar then a TGOD comeback with Bandz a Make Her Dance then a really
good album and now mixtape after mixtape of roof rattlers.
Anyways he stormed on stage, scarf draped over his head just like my mom wears a dupatta. Instantly I declared him my newest role
model. My list of role models was 29 pages long on Microsoft Word. Now it is 30.
I’ll be honest—I don’t know that many Juicy J songs. But
that didn’t stop me from leaping around like an electrified monkey. Bass on The
Neptune’s speakers exploded my brain into dripping mush—Beautiful. I still
haven’t recovered. At one point Juicy played a bunch of Three 6 Mafia numbers and
I knew the words so I screamed them and it was great.
Times like those, watching awestruck as an Oscar winner
screams down at you “YOU SAY NO TO DRUGS, JUICY J CAN’T,” you wonder what life
is really all about. Because maybe, just maybe, all you have to do is keep doing
your thing—whatever that thing may be—and you’ll eventually win.
Juicy J, legend, you inspire me to be the best possible me. Safe travels.
Born Ricardo Valentine, the southern singer has been creating for years but just recently began receiving attention with his breakout singles ‘PRBLMS’ and ‘Free’ released in early 2016. 6lack (Pronounced Black) aims to create a withstanding name for himself with murky beats, grimy vocals, and intimate lyrics. These characteristics are heard throughout ‘Free 6lack’ as Valentine contrasts past relationships and personal challenges with his desire for mental freedom.
After years or being locked in a faulty contract, 6lack felt he could finally express creative freedom with his latest release. The self-described monochromatic vocals backed by swampy soundscapes and stripped-down instrumentals reflect the conflicting emotions experienced by the young artist. In an interview with Fader magazine 6lack says, “ You look at it right now, you see monochrome, you see moody, you see for the most part somebody who is still in the process of figuring shit out,” in regard to his musical style.
‘Free 6lack’ opens with a stripped-down, nefarious track titled ‘Never Know’ which sets the overcast mood of the album and gives Valentine room to celebrate his hard-fought success. Other standout songs include intimate ballads like ‘Luving U’ and ‘Gettin Old’ plus an addictive remix of Future’s ‘Perkys Calling.’ 6lack aims to connect with fans through relatable stories of overcoming personal challenges and difficult relationships. His powerful messages of pushing for freedom pair seamlessly with his haunting beat selection creating a delightfully dangerous album. If you enjoy the murky, monochromatic R&B sound emerging out of cities like Atlanta and Toronto then I highly recommend indulging in this album and watching 6lack’s video for his hit single, ‘PRBLMS,’ below.
The Austin, Illinois native brings hope and energy to his neglected neighborhood with poetic lyrics and organic production dripping with neo-soul.
2016 has been a year filled with soulful projects stemming from young Chicago artists, including; Noname’s ‘Telefone’, Mick Jenkins’ ‘The Healing Component’, and of course Chance the Rapper’s explosive ‘Coloring Book’. Saba, an independent poet-turned-rapper, has consistently collaborated with each of these artists, and on his new ‘Bucket List Project’ (Released October 27) he establishes his role in Chicago’s progressive music scene. This project is the follow-up to the 22-year-old’s 2014 mixtape, ‘Comfort Zone,’ which highlighted his creative storytelling and impassioned beat selection.
A bucket list typically consists of goals and aspirations one dreams of achieving in their lifetime. On his new project, Saba pushes the importance of utilizing ambition through lyrical anecdotes and scattered voicemails regarding the bucket lists of various friends and fellow musicians. Luscious production provided by frequent collaborators Phoelix, Cam O’bi and Monte Booker serves as a perfect backdrop for the album’s poetic reflection on West-Chicago’s repressed neighborhoods. Tracks range from warm and intimate to blunt and intense, but remain focused on inspiring optimism in “the part of the city that they don’t be talking about” to quote the fiery track, ‘Westside Bound 3.” Saba addresses the influences of childhood experiences and relationships in songs like ‘Church / Liquor Store’ and ‘Stoney’ while demonstrating his determination to chase his dream. By speaking on the obstacles obstructing his hometown’s community, Saba finds beauty within the struggle and poetically reinforces the prospect of a brighter future on tracks like ‘Most’ and ‘California.’ All in all, the vibrantly vivid ‘Bucket List Project’ encapsulates the importance of fulfilling goals and living life to the fullest while reflecting on the difficulties of developing in a harsh environment. I highly encourage curious readers to give this innovative project a listen, you won’t be disappointed!
Listen to Saba’s ‘Bucket List Project’ here
Favorite Tracks: Photosynthesis (ft. Jean Deaux) // Church/Liquor Store (ft. Noname) // Bucket List (ft. Matthew Santos)
Monday night I had the privileged of experiencing Chance The Rapper’s uniquely brilliant Magnificent Coloring World Tour inside the cavernous WaMu Theater. Mountainous black curtains lined every inch of the venue instilling a rich sense of mystery. Despite the flowing crowds, I felt alone in the space-like complex. This feeling was short-lived as I was quickly surrounded by masses of colorful people pushing me towards the illustrious ‘front row’. Nevertheless, the vast darkness of WaMu’s towering walls created an alternate dimension isolating the stage and the crowd.
The show opened with Chance’s electrically awkward collaborator Francis Farewell Starlite of Francis and the Lights accomponied by Chance’s go-to producer, Nate Fox. The Oakland, CA native has been on the alt-pop radar since 2007 and recently dropped his debut studio album Farewell, Starlite! in late September. Francis possessed a very soft-spoken demeanor despite his musics’ jagged edge and funky synthesized melodies. He consistently addressed the well-being of the restless crowd and didn’t serve as much of a hype man until the end of his set. I reluctantly began to enjoy his shameless dancing and oddly groovy style due to his undefeated positive attitude. The man was having fun. It then dawned on me that the true purpose of Francis’ modest performance wasn’t to hype up a restless fans, but to set a peaceful precedent for an enjoyable evening.
After Francis left the stage the show encountered a brief 30-minute delay coupled with a preset playlist containing only Drake and Future. This pause disrupted the concert’s energy momentarily but any shadow of a doubt was obliterated with Chance’s immediate energy.
Excitement rushed through my veins as the Broadway-esque red curtain rose to reveal the wondrous stage set. Singing animatronics, colorful supersized crayons and Carlos the spirit guide/lion/mega puppet transformed the stage into an animated fantasy land. Chance opened the show performing classic hits off his breakout mixtapes 10 Day and Acid Rap including songs like; Cocao Butter Kisses, Brain Cells, Favorite Song, Long Time and Juice. Each song exploded with spirit backed by Social Experiment members Chi-town producer Peter Cottontale on the keyboard, Stix on the drums, and the incredible Donnie Trumpet toting his famed bugle. Brilliant multi-color lights and textural animations illuminated the once colorless auditorium adding to “Magical Coloring World” experience. After taking his fans on a trip down memory lane, Chance rerouted and began performing his latest masterpiece, Coloring Book, in its entirety. Carlos the Lion acted as Chance’s mentor, guiding him to push the message of the gospel-inspired album. Loving ourselves. The animatronic choir conveyed the setting of a southern-baptist church as Chance’s soulful-jazzy beats served as a perfect medium for his advocacy of God, peace and happiness. I even teared up as Chance spoke personally on the importance learning to love yourself and his current emotional struggles. For his finale Chance brought Francis back out to perform their song (and one of my favorites off Coloring Book) Summer Friends with an extended outro courtesy of the Social Experiment team leaving the crowd with a sense of musical wonderment. I was absolutely blown away by
part rap-musical part spiritual service the concert turned out to be. If you have yet to experience Chance the Rapper’s music you can find his latest project here. I have also provided links to his previous mixtapes and Soundcloud if you’re interested in exploring this innovative artist’s past work. Chance’s music certainly changed my life and it could change yours too.
– Robert B