Cementing himself as the rockstar that he is, Philadelphia rapper Lil Uzi Vert has delivered his 2nd project in the last 5 months with Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World. If you follow Uzi on any of social media platforms, then you know he has been teasing a lot of these tracks for awhile now. I’ve been waiting on Ps & Qs since he posted a video of him singing along back during SXSW. With his uncanny ability to pick out hard-hitting production to his infectious use of melody, Uzi surely isn’t fizzling out any time soon. If you haven’t yet, you’d be best advised to get familiar.
If you haven’t heard any of the music coming from Toronto as of late – aside from that guy named Drake – then you are doing yourself a criminal disservice. Drew Howard was responsible for my favorite under-the-radar hit of 2015 with You’re Not My Mans(seriously, do yourself a favor and click on that), and today he has let his latest EP Social Suicide go. I’ve always thought it might be difficult for Howard to follow YNMM with tracks of greater or equal to quality, but my first listen through Social Suicide has quickly proven me wrong.
Stream Drew Howard‘s latest EP Social Suicide above.
Glo-ry be to the most high because one of the greatest musical compositions of our time finally has an accompanying visual. Forget about the fact that Faneto dropped in 2014 and just appreciate the fact that Chief Keef took his time to put out his best music video to date. Also, how awesome is it that he included crowd accompaniment on the first “GAS WHAT I SMOKE”?
If this isn’t the coolest tour recap/day in the life video you’ve seen then sue me. Goodbye Tomorrow has had some of the best, and easily most slept on, creative direction of any artist in all of hip-hop (and they’re relative newcomers to the game). After a 2015 campaign that saw them being named to virtually every top-artists lists, the Goodbye Tomorrow conglomerate puts well into perspective what their sound looks like. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab their debut project A Journey Through The Mind Of A Non Believer on your favorite streaming service.
Few people are given the opportunity at redemption quite like Justin Bieber got in 2015. Up until the epic moment that was him breaking down after a performance of What Do You Mean? at the MTV Video Music Awards, it seemed that anytime the Biebs name came up it had something to do with a poor choice he had made for whatever reason. I’ve never actually been one to criticize his behaviors – I’d probably be doing a lot of the same things he was if I was a kid in my early 20s with hit records, millions of dollars, and the interest of every single female on the planet. Well, after much personal scrutiny Bieber dropped off a classic album – Purpose – which pretty much validated everything the kid has ever done. With the release of each single, he grabbed the attention of the general public with ease. Where Are U Now didn’t really count because for the most part people believed it was a Skrillex & Diplo record featuring Bieber, and What Do You Mean? was just a precursor – most people didn’t actually admit that they were Beliebers at this point, but they could feel it coming. Once Sorry hit the airwaves, it was a wrap and Justin had everyone listening. Love Yourself could possibly be the best record of the entire year – I know I played it on repeat for the next week with zero shame whatsoever. I’m still not sure why we’re not talking more about how incredible it is that this guy made a song about telling an ex to go F themselves in such a well-mannered way. Everyone from 12 year old kids in middle school to young adults beginning careers were completely enthralled by Justin’s music. Purpose gave us a more vulnerable Bieber – not that his music wasn’t relatable before, but this time around it seemed as if he was “adult” enough to actually have conviction in his words. There’s moments where JB humanizes himself so much that you are hearing him on a very basic human-to-human level, and it helps in being able to appreciate him as an artist. With his fourth studio album, he used Purpose to show that he is still a stellar pop-star; but the sounds were shaped much more by the influences of Skrillex and Diplo rather than going for an obvious commercial sound, and for that Bieber has to be respected for a taking a risk. An artist in a spotlight such as him doesn’t have as much freedom to take losses from creative chances. There are a few negatives about Purpose, for me. The first: it was incredibly long. It’s hard to hold my attention for an entire album that’s around 12 songs, let alone something that’s 18 tracks long. Also, the Big Sean feature was cringe-worthy as it seems we really are watching him turn into the next Flo Rida. All in all though, Purpose was great. We saw a young man grow into an adult and felt all of the feelings that come along with such transition. Once again Justin Bieber has everyone’s attention, and if Purpose is any indicator it seems like he’ll have it for a long time to come.
Perhaps one of the greatest attributes good music has is its ability to paint vivid landscapes through sound, emotion, and vibe. In my own humble opinion, Dylan Brady might have painted one of the most beautiful pictures through music that I can remember from an independent artist in a long time. In getting to know Dylan a bit, and following his music closely, it’s easy to see that the young DIY-man from St. Louis is doing exactly what he wants to with his sounds. This spring, Dylan released his debut project – All I Ever Wanted – and over time it became one of those low key go-to’s on SoundCloud whenever someone is asking, “hey, give me some new music to check out.” From top to bottom AIEW sets an ominous, almost painful mood which is important as a listener when trying to gauge just where an artist’s music is coming from on a personal level. If you’re a sucker for drums, as I am, then nothing here will let you down beginning from the first bass kick in Piano Prelude and lasting all the way until Finale. What you see, and hear, is all the result of Brady’s tireless work ethic and creative input. The man is responsible for the distorted autotune whines, the heavy hitting production, and the flawless art direction. The albums stand-out track to me has to be the infectious Little Bando (which is also probably my favorite music video of the year done on little-to-no budget). 314 featuring the rapidly rising Night Lovell is an in your face listening experience, and the build up is of epic proportions – giving me the same vibe that I’d get when the Chicago Bulls announced their starting lineups in the Jordan days. What ties AIEW together seamlessly is the complimentary voices heard throughout. Nok the Future, Night, Robel Ketema, Kevin Abstract, Ravenna Golden, and Saputoall came to the table with their A games showing that Dylan has a complete understanding as to who to place where.
Dylan has set himself up to really breakthrough in 2016. I’ve been seeing his name pop up in a lot of places, and it seems that everyone I see listening to him has some pretty incredible adjectives to throw out there when describing his music. All I Ever Wanted provided the better part of my personal soundtrack in 2015, and I can’t wait to see what Brady, and the rest of his HELLA squad, has in store for 2016.
Is there any arguing the magnitude of Future‘s impact on hip-hop over the last few years? Ever since he woke up in that Bugatti, Future’s influence has been felt by almost every rapper and has even crossed over into the pop realm (look up the writing credits for Beyonce‘s Drunk in Love and I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised). After a trilogy of mixtapes that were better than most albums (seriously, Monster still gets daily spins from me), everything culminated into something painfully beautiful. DS2 didn’t have a prolonged marketing roll out. It wasn’t laced with top notch features. DS2 was Future at his all time creative best: intoxicated, depressed, and spiteful. Had Codeine Crazy – or an emotional equivalent – been placed on DS2, I’d probably be inclined to give it a 10/10 and possibly tattoo the album art across my back. There’s a brutal honesty in the entire album. Even a record like Thought It Was A Drought has undertones of darkness, seclusion, and addiction. Sure, we are used to hearing rappers go on and on about drug use, robberies, and shoot outs; but the pain in Future’s voice allows for us to hear his stories with empathy – and sometimes sympathy. DS2 is also the culmination of the evolution of Super Future Hendrix. I’ve said it for awhile now, but I don’t think any of us could have imagined the guy that made Same Damn Time could a few years later make something as emotionally impactful as Kno The Meaning (speaking of which; Kno The Meaning leaves a great opportunity to go back and listen to 56 Nights). The albums hit single – Where Ya At featuring Drake – is quite possibly one of the loneliest subject matters ever used for a song that turned into a club banger. I think my personal favorite is Stick Talk, which at first listen could be easy to confuse as a braggadocious trap banger – but there’s savage levels of honesty here too (“I’ma tell a lie under oath”). Every payday has me running out of the office like, “BOUT TO F*** THIS CASH UP ON A NEW TOY!”. As noted in my review of Bryson Tiller‘s TRAPSOUL, I am a fan of an emotional listen; and I can’t lie – Future’s DS2 puts me all the way in my feelings. We’re coming up on 2016, and DS2 still to this day gets more spins than anything else in my catalog. Here’s to hoping he can continue this formula. Revisit the magnum opus that is DS2here, via Spotify.
Have you ever wondered what being bipolar might sound like? Probably not, because the stigma placed on such a disorder freaks people out from here to Timbuktu – but Bryson Tiller‘s (aka Pen Griffey) debut impact might offer some metaphorical insight. TRAPSOUL has been highly anticipated since the Louisville crooner first started dropping hints earlier this year. I covered a bit of what I found appealing about Bryson Tiller earlier this year before the album dropped, and I’m happy to report his first full body of work did nothing but strengthen my previous arguments. He takes his debut album as an opportunity to reach out to the girl he wants back in his life which is a much larger platform than most of us have at our expense (“everywhere she go they playing my songs/ that’s why I say the things that I say that way I know you can’t ignore me”. Let that resonate a little bit). TRAPSOUL is loaded with visceral heartbreakers. Exchange will leave you trying to locate ex-shorty’s number through the tears welling up in your eyes, The Sequence acts as the pinnacle of Tiller’s self-reflection, and then there’s the viral impact that was Don’t – which is what caught the ears of most including the 6 God himself. There is an ex-flex in the midst of all of this heartbreak though; the Timbaland produced Sorry Not Sorry is the only break up song you’ll ever need again. Rambo is another braggadocious anthem that saw Sylvester Stallone giving Tiller props for using the name of his legendary film series. Pen Griffey also proves to be a living testament as to just how quick things can take off, and 502 Come Up is the perfect example. Just a year ago the man was working at Papa John’s and borrowing money to buy recording equipment, and now he’s riding jet skis in the Atlantic with DJ Khaled. TRAPSOUL is a 2015 personal favorite for several reasons: most of it served as the soundtrack to a period of heartbreak that I found myself in making the lyrics and the message easy for me to relate to; his cadence rides out perfectly over every beat he touches as he seems to flawlessly dip in and out of rapping and singing; and his rags to riches story is absolutely inspiring and probably deserving of the Hollywood-movie-score-treatment. I want to feel emotion when I listen to music. I don’t care if it’s happy, sad, optimistic, or flat-out depressive; music that drives home a certain feeling is instantly going to be what I gravitate towards. Your first impression will linger with you for life, and this is a superb freshman impact. You can check out the music video for Sorry Not Sorry above, and the audio for Exchange below. If you’re feeling those, stream the rest of TRAPSOUL over on Spotify.
Chaz French isn’t afraid to admit that he very much came from the struggle. Through bouts with alcoholism to sleeping in his car, the artist hasn’t been afraid to touch on the darker side of his dream-chasing. Today, Chaz let loose the culmination of all of those personal struggles in the form of his latest album – These Things Take Time. Aside from Goldlink and a few other contributions, TTTT shows Chaz again being able to body a full length impact. I’m still on my first listen through, so I won’t start offering up opinions – but I would highly suggest giving this man his due; 6 songs in and I can’t find any discrepancies You can stream the album’s first single Remember above and check out the rest via Spotify.
The artist simply known as Stephen is back at it again. A few weeks removed from his cover of Adele‘s Hello – which skyrocketed to the top of Spotify’s Viral Chart – Stephen releases the genre-bending, humility-driven single Crossfire. Crossfire pits Stephen against his own head – which seems to be a common theme with the artist – leaving him wondering what it is he has done to deserve so much in comparison to those who aren’t as fortunate. There’s substance everywhere here from the lyrics, which should hit home for a lot of us, to the instrumental, which possess enough energy to make your blood curdle. The Halfway House musician has seen his name on all of the major publications, and I’m betting it’s only a matter of time before he’s someone you’re showing your friends the next time they ask for a hidden gem.
Coming on the heels of his Skinny Love remix earlier this year, producer JR Nelson is set to take the winter by storm. His first release is this boisterous remix of Andra Day‘s Rise Up. Everything going on with this newer cut does a perfect job of accompanying Andra‘s incredible voice. This remix might find it’s way into my morning shuffle so I can find a way to look at things on the bright side rather than the usual, “ughhh work”.
Stream JR Nelson‘s remix to Andra Day‘s Rise Up above.
It’d be hard for anybody to fumblea beat from Casper & B but the two did an excellent job of recruiting features for their latest release. Laced with verses from 2 of the supermen of the up and coming hip-hop crop – Pell and Michael Christmas – as well as 2 other rising artists that deserve the same respect in their own right – Wonda and Maarlon – the LA based production duo delivers a good time via the production boards as every aspect of the record takes you on a proverbial trip.