Donald Glover continues to create his own lane with his new 1970s R&B-inspired Awaken, My Love! Soulful elements of George Clinton, Funkadelic, Tower of Power and The Isley Brothers can all be heard on the stunning project. Rapping is noticeably absent from the album, but the harmonization over twangy electric guitars, electric pianos and flutes on its 11 tracks provide a breathtaking and dream-like experience for the ages. Stream via Spotify below.
Listen to Tyler, The Creator‘s freshly released album, Cherry Bomb, courtesy of Spotify. Physical copies will be available Apil 28th and fans will be able to choose from 5 different covers.
Kendrick Lamar kept a journal the week good kid, m.A.A.d city was released with the intention of remembering how he felt or what it was like to go back to his hometown of Compton. His sophomore album, To Pimp a Butterfly, seems to expound upon the innermost thoughts likely penned in its pages and delivers it in rare form: honestly, aggressively and fervently.
Like his lauded debut album, he vividly paints cinematic scenes that can only be fully grasped by digesting the work sequentially, but instead of detailing his redemption from street life and sin, he exposes painful battles with temptation, self-love and celebrity.
Throughout the self-confessed roller coaster of emotions, K Dot expresses his wrath towards social inequality (“Hood Politics“) and the criminalization of Black males on the jarring “The Blacker the Berry” that would make artists like Dead Prez, Public Enemy and N.W.A. proud. “You hate me don’t you?/You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture,” he shouts jeeringly.
As the “biggest hypocrite of 2015,” the latter two tracks are juxtaposed by songs like the ethnicity embracing “Complexion” with Rapsody and the uplifting “Alright.” Amidst the unforeseen conversation with God on “How Much a Dollar Cost” and the evils of Lucy (Lucifer) that surround him on “For Sale?,” Kendrick manages to find solace in the joyous live version of “i” while proceeding to break down the true origin of the N word.
Admittedly the most difficult track to record, standout “u” is engulfed in depression as he screams in his hotel room and reflects on relationships that suffered due to his fame. He despises himself for not being able to veer his younger sister from pregnancy or visit his friend in the hospital before his untimely demise. “Then he died, God himself will say you fuckin failed/You ain’t try,” he declares nearly shedding tears as he contemplates suicide.
The dramatic range is boundless and the score equally breathtaking. With minimal well-known Hip Hop cameos (sans Pharrell, Snoop and a short speaking role from Dr. Dre), To Pimp a Butterfly’s sound reverts back to his earlier brass-filled tracks like “Rigamortis” & “Hol’ Up.”
Severing all ties to radio and absorbing Miles Davis and Parliament Funkadelic instead, the album’s production is a kaleidoscopic mix of luscious instrumentation provided by bass god Thundercat, in-house producers Terrace Martin and Sounwave, and experimental beatmaker Flying Lotus accompanied by George Clinton (“Wesley’s Theory“).
Despite endless submissions from the industry’s elite producers, Kendrick executed his unrelenting vision. The result is a rapturous blend of Funky electric guitars, keyboards, Jazzy horns, and strings that belong on the same astral plane ATLiens Outkast descended from.
Released exactly one day after the 20th anniversary of Me Against the World, the album comes to a powerful close with “Mortal Man.” The listener learns that the gradual revelation of a metaphorical poem pertaining to the project’s title is being shared with his late mentor, Tupac Shakur, who encouraged Kendrick to continue his legacy in a dream. The two discuss the current generation’s future, which Pac believes is “gonna be like Nat Turner, 1831.”
In a time where police officers still evade castigation for police brutality, Kendrick fearlessly carries the West Coast torch spreading Pac’s burning message of explicit Black pride, justice and revolution.
Whether it’s his conscience, social responsibility, or an epiphany he experienced while speaking to fans pondering suicide that led him to create such a complex and thought provoking masterpiece, one can simply hope that Kendrick will continue to compose projects that will not only spark stimulating conversations, but spawn change among the masses.
Listen to Common‘s new album Nobody’s Smiling in stores tomorrow, July 22.
1. The Neighborhood f. Lil Herb & Cocaine 80s
2. No Fear
3 Diamonds f. Big Sean
4. Blak Majik f. Jhené Aiko
5. Speak My Piece
6. Hustle Harder f. Snoh Aalegra & Dreezy
7. Nobody’s Smiling
8. Real f. Elijah Blake
9. Kingdom f. Vince Staples
10. Rewind That
11. Out On Bond f. Vince Staples
12. 7 Deadly Sings
13. Young Hearts Run Free f. Cocaine 80s