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 MonteBooker 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!
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.
Aaron Hoffman walks up into a room and knocks down a
handshake for a warm hug. “Hey, how are you doing?” with a huge smile on his
face. “Are you ready for this? It’s going to be a real fun night.”
Canadian artist Hoffman, who goes by the stage name SonReal,
is incredibly humble—yet still cognizant of his skill. When first asked about
how long he’s been doing music, he responds, “3 years, but you know, like
everything it’s a journey. I wrote my first rap when I was a kid, but I was
lucky enough to get signed and here we are.”
Here we are indeed. We reference SonReal’s elaborate music
videos, which portray Hollywood level quality of budget and casting, and the
artist is all humble smiles. “I’ve always loved acting, I’ve always loved
trying new crazy things. Rappers always try, since the beginning of time, to
look and be cool and I can’t do that. I can’t do that, but I do know how to be
goofy and have fun and that’s what I love about the videos we make.”
He laughs when we asked how he does it, over and over. “I
have an incredible team,” he replies. “I have the same director for each video
who pushes me over and over to get things perfect but it works.
First a rapper, SonReal’s musical aesthetic has progressed
over time, with more melodic vocals intertwining into his albums. The artist
smiles when trying to explain his musical structure but finally expresses
himself with a declaration of love for music. “I just love singing,” he says. “I’ve
always just loved music. You know, when I first started, I just wanted to a rapper. I wanted to rap and that was
what I knew how to do, and I wanted just that. But as time passed and I started
making more music, it was just a natural progression. I would be writing a lyric
and I just wanted to sing, so I did.”
It works well, on tracks like the single, “Can I Get A Witness,”
in which SonReal showcases his vocal range—a range, we might add, we did not
expect the artist to have. In the chorus of the track that has, as the artist
scales higher in octave, we’re shocked, but pleasantly. It’s a distinct switch
from his lyrical verses of rap to the almost reggae chorus he sings, and
unpredictably so. “I like that I’m unpredictable,” he says. “I don’t want
people to ever just get used to what I do or sing or rap. I want to keep you on
your toes, and so sometimes that might mean just singing a whole song on the EP [The Name] with no rapping at all or rapping a love sing entirely. Who knows, but I don’t want
to be predictable.”
And the artist is anything but, as we see him pump it out on
stage, dancing every which way, reminiscent of Chance the Rapper’s stage
presence and Macklemore’s dance floor energy. We see big things for SonReal,
currently touring with Jon Bellion. With a new album out in August, we’re hoping
to see Sonreal make more unpredictable music and collaborate and work with big artists,
making a name for himself.
“Here’s thing,” he tells us, sitting back. “I want to work
with people, I do. But the thing is I kinda just want to make my own music. You
know, I don’t want to ever walk into a room and have to tell you who I am. I
want to get so good, be so well recognized, that someone walks in and says, ‘I
like that guy, his shit’s dope, I really like what he does because he’s
different and unpredictable and does what other people don’t, I want to work
with him.’ It doesn’t matter how I make people feel with my music, whether it
makes them cry, smile, laugh…I want to work with other people.” He smiles and
looks off for a second before back on us. “But it’s not my time yet, I need to
get there first.”
Be sure to take a listen to SonReal’s singles currently out,
and be the first to grab that new album, The Name, August 12.
Kari is super self-aware and it shows in everything she makes. She gained internet traction after working with Childish Gambino; he remixed her song “No Small Talk” on STN MTN and she featured him in her video for “Gahdamn”. Even so, she mocks internet fame on her track “On the Internet”: “Doing the most for a little fame / But one thing remains the same / When you log out you’re still a lame.” Her videos are stylistic and sarcastic too and definitely worth checking out.
Junglepussy hits on all the subject matter that a strong modern woman cares about – self-love and care, looking good, and keeping lame dudes away from you. Her flow is sexy and smooth yet commanding. Her new album Pregnant with Success is a continuation of her unique style. She also has one of the best Twitter accounts of all time IMO.
Babeo Baggins + Barf Troop
Babeo Baggins is a genderfluid member of the rap group Barf Troop. The group has gained recognition in the press most recently for being seen with Drakeand some other members of the OVO crew. Babeo’s latest album Positive highlights their cheeky and playful style. With a flow that reaches lightning speeds, Babeo’s clever lyricism will blow you away.
From the start Mykki’s music has addressed gender, sexuality and queer culture. She’s made a name for herself with her bold, aggressive sound. She’s also made headlines for coming out as HIV positive, being best friends with the OG riot grrlKathleen Hanna and reportedly pursuing a career in investigative journalism. In any case, she continues to make waves in the rap scene.