It’s true, earlier in the day, Kanye West, nearly everyone’s favorite rapper, a man so instrumental in music and culture, proclaimed his love for Trump loud and proud. There are dozens of tweets about it, including, a picture of himself wearing a god damn MAGA hat. And not even Kanye could make that shit look cool.
JPEGMAFIA brings rage and relevance to his music. He busts shots at the alt-right, KellyAnne Conway, and the fucked-up status quo. That’s why he’s the most important rapper working today. He’s a veteran, outspoken, humorous and real, and is making some of the most interesting music out.
His beats skitter and pop, almost abstractly. Sometimes they’re dark and solemn. Sometimes they’re ignorantly violent and allow JPEG to go off on them. Peggy, as he’s affectionately known, opened his set with the Ol’ Dirty Bastard-sampling “Real Nega.” It’s basically ODB shrieking over tribal drums while JPEG spits serious bars all over the place. As soon as the song started, JPEG broke out into the center of the audience and let everybody get in on the moshing. There was not a single still body in the crowd, everyone was either jumping, pushing or both.
JPEG roamed the stage, the ledges, and the audience nonstop, interracting with fans who knew every single word, even the ad-lib sounds from his songs, (“Daaaamn, Peggy”) like a true rockstar. He even played all his own beats from iTunes, no DJ, no hypeman, just pure punk.
Although JPEG could’ve been the main course, in one of the most buzz-worthy shows since Tyler, the Creator/Vince Staples, Injury Reserve brought serious art to the stage next. Complete with LED screen, snow machines, and a hidden room underneath the stage (I wish I could properly describe this, but I’d write 200 words about it alone.)
Injury Reserve came with the tricks, but what struck me, more than the plastic money guns shooting fake Harriet Tubman $20 bills, was the immense talent in this rap group. Stepa J. Groggs, Ritchie With a T, and producer Parker Corey make some of the most lyrically and musically interesting music you haven’t heard yet.
They’ve been working hard since 2014, and have some of the hardest songs like “Oh Shit!!!,” “All This Money,” or sincere tracks like “Tktkv,” and “North Pole.” Ritchie performs with elegance and immense power. When he gets going, it’s like watching Mike Tyson wind up for a haymaker. He can spit with so much aggression while staying genuine and accessible. Stepa is just fresh as a pack of Extra.
Some of the songs these guys play need to be heard by the masses. “See You Sweat” is a bonafide hit and “Bad Boys 3”?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? THIS SONG KICKS SO HARD!
Injury Reserve and JPEGMAFIA are on a collision course with success, and they are 100% doing it their way. They are true artists. They’re not rocking Gucci or relying on drug-talk to sell to kids. They are genuinely some of the most talented rappers out today. It was fun moshing with them and 200 fans, but damn if it wouldn’t be unreal to see them play a 2,000 sold-out room. That’s where they’ll be soon. Word is bond.
BROCKHAMPTON are the biggest name in music right now and for a multitude of reasons. They are exciting, vibrant, blisteringly fun, and taking over the world their way.
There is no dumbing down the concept of BROCKHAMPTON. What you see, what you hear, what you feel- it is all hand-crafted by the 14 person creative unit. There is all hands on deck in every step of the process. They produce the beats, attack the tracks as a team-each member taking alternating verses, and even film the music videos and artwork.
So when it came time for BROCKHAMPTON’s first big time national tour, excitement and expectations grew to astronomical heights. Currently, there are only two shows on the 50-something show tour that are not sold out. Every piece of merch instantly sells out online, and fans wait out in line for the group all day, even through cold and snow and rain.
At 4 p.m., the line of fans wrapped around the block of the venue, for a 9 p.m. show. Fans dressed in BROCKHAMPTON’s unique orange coveralls and blue face paint. They waited, they chanted, and as soon as the boyband stepped onstage, the crowd E-R-U-P-T-E-D.
The kind of energy produced in the first four songs was enough to make the air thick with moisture, the faces in the crowd covered and sweat, and power the crowd of mostly young teenagers through one of the most exciting shows in recent memory. The rambunctious 1-2-3-4 punch combination of “BOOGIE,” “QUEER,” “STAR,” and (my personal favorite song) “GUMMY,” rattled the room and personally made my legs weak and head light. Several times I had to fight for a decent breath of oxygen, but that might have been a result of screaming every single lyric.
It was a transcendentally fun night of rap music and pure wildness. BROCKHAMPTON has always dubbed themselves as “the best boyband since One Direction” and the statement really couldn’t be truer. Each member has a persona that is infectious and easily fanboy-able. If you ask 50 BROCKHAMPTON fans who their favorite member is, you’ll get 50 different answers. However, it is such a thrill to see them all onstage together, like a supergroup. A queer, diverse, eclectic, and outrageously fun supergroup. This is absolutely a must-see event.
Five songs into Jeezy’s blistering set in Kansas City last night, he halted the music and proclaimed that the show was postponed.
The hyped-up crowd, who have spent the night rapping, smoking, and turning up was suddenly brought careening back to earth.
But before the air was entirely left from the room, Jeezy stated, “let’s turn this show into a mothafucking Gangsta Party.” As the music blasted back out of speakers, fake snow erupted from cannons at the front of the stage, coating everyone in attendance in powder, courtesy of “The Snowman.”
There are few rappers who have as prolific a footprint as Jeezy. The Atlanta, Georgia icon began his reign in 2005 with the hit album Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. This album was the streets in Atlanta. Out of every Cadillac, rattled speakers blasting “Standing Ovation,” “Trap Star,” “Bottom of the Map,” and pretty much every other song on this album. In fact, Kendrick Lamar even referenced it on his debut album Good Kid m.A.A.d City, when his friends sang in unison “last time I checked, I was the man in these streets.”
That’s what this music does. It emboldens the spirit. It gives life to the dread of the grind that is life. It pulls us up from the dirt and shows us that there can be something more. It’s all about finding the (thug) motivation within ourselves.
So when Jeezy took stage in Kansas City, it was a jubilant moment for the entire community. Everyone in the venue has had something in their lives that stopped them in their tracks, put them down, incarcerated them in doubt. It would make sense that an artist like Jeezy could get them through that.
The man has CHARISMA. He’s a natural performer. He sells these songs like a hungry battle rapper, putting his heart and soul into every syllable. He looks out at the crowd like a sea full of diamonds. He carries himself like the most confident rapper I’ve ever seen. Not even 50 Cent had this kind of swagger when I saw him years back.
Jeezy performed deep tracks from his storied discography, as well as new tracks off his latest album, “Pressure.” All of them, every song, was sung by the entire audience. I haven’t seen so many smiles from a crowd in a very long time.
Jeezy was supported by hard-nosed Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley, who is one of the fastest emerging rappers in the game. I first heard Grizzley’s music from an Instagram live video LeBron James posted of him working out to Grizzley’s song “First Day Out,” just a couple days after losing the NBA Championship. LeBron wasn’t just listening to the song, he was rapping along, pounding his fist to the beat, refusing to let the defeat get to him.
This is the epitome of Grizzley’s music: success in the face of adversity. In fact, “First Day Out” was released immediately after his freedom from a three year prison stint. To see him onstage, covered in diamonds— side note— rappers have started wearing multiple watches, like, I get it, you’re rich- but you really only need one watch. And even with one watch, a phone is the way most of us check the time. But back to Tee— to see him covered in diamonds and flexing a wad of cash, watching a crowd full of people rap along to his songs, is pretty triumphant. And Tee is a pretty awesome.
Rap shows can be a mess, but they can also be glorious. Sometimes rap shows can reduce what we all have to endure everyday, and lift up the joy that we save for life’s most precious moments. Jeezy made a crowd full of people happy and reminded us that it’s never too late to get it.
List season, baby! This is what I’ve all been waiting for all year. I’ve listened to so much music this year, it’s actually kind of fucked up. But I did it all for this. This list. This brief summary of the 50 best songs of 2017. Let’s burn this mother down and start fresh in 2018.
So, 2016 was a burning shit and hair-filled diaper on a runaway trainwreck exploding on an Indian burial ground. So let’s look back at what didn’t suck, the music. Here’s the 50 best albums of the year. Let’s hope 2017 will have way less dead rockstars and Nazis.
That was my introduction paragraph to last year’s list… Well, shit. Maybe we’ll try for better in 2018.
Let’s get to the music.
#25: Father John Misty- True Comedy
This year was, as I’ve stated before, a complete and utter shit show. A Taco Bell induced, diarrhea explosion at the Louvre during a Bill Cosby stand-up comedy set. So to hear everyone’s favorite musical cynic, Father John Misty, describe the dreary world around him in such musical eloquence, it kind of felt like watching your house burn down and throwing your hands in the air as if to say, “fuck it, burn baby burn.”
#24: Thundercat- “Drunk”
How do you describe Thundercat to someone who’s unfamiliar? Well, he plays cosmic rhythm/ funk/ jazz on a six-string bass, and he’s friends with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus, and he’s kind of a stoner hero and oh yeah, he occasionally meows. Like, there’s truly nothing to prepare someone for what to experience with Thundercat. However, the result is always jaw dropping. This is no exception with “Drunk,” which features some of my favorite lyrics of the year.
#23: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit- The Nashville Sound
Country music hates Jason Isbell, and I’m pretty sure Jason Isbell hates country music. There is no doubt that a guy as cool, laid-back, and musically talented would despise being dubbed a “country artist,” being lumped in with the red, white, and blue toting, dip-spitting, 10-gallon hat wearing, imbeciles the genre usually plays to. But this album is a country album. It’s smart, sophisticated, understated, and cool. It gives the genre a good name, and even country music can’t be mad at that.
#22: Sorority Noise: You’re Not As _____ As You Think
Emo music is notoriously stark. It’s supposed to be bleak and sad, obviously, it’s called emotional music. But this album bites like a deranged T Rex with trust issues. “A Portrait Of” will cut you deep from second 1, and “No Halo” is a ram-shackling good time through the pain. So put on all black, get in the moshpit, push around, find yourself in the sound of someone else’s pain. It just might help you get through your own.
#21: Alvvays- Antisocialites
Alvvays put together a stunning dream pop album during some of the least dreamy circumstances. The music sounds airy, wistful, and like it belongs up in heaven. The lyrics, aren’t as peaches and cream though. Every line is painted with a brush of the anti-social. Those moments, like walking past someone on the street, knowing you’ll dream of them later that night. Like staying awake staring at the phone, hoping for a miracle. Like wishing you could be someone else. All of these emotions are so vivid on this incredibly catchy and beautiful album.
#20: Mac Demarco- This Old Dog
Mac Demarco is my hero. This might seem like an exageration, and even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking, “is he really?” But the more I think about it, there’s truth in the statement. Mac Demarco is a genuinely sweet guy, he’s creative and uninhibited to making one kind of music. He’s got heart, a whole lot of it. He makes great music for those of us who might not know what to do with this weird life of ours. And you know what, I genuinely love the guy. So yeah, he might be my hero, and “This Old Dog” was the soundtrack of my year.
#19: Charly Bliss- Guppy
Sometimes, in a year like this, you have to put down Twitter that’s only reporting bad news, look yourself in the mirror and say: “Let’s have FUN!” That’s when I put on Guppy by Charly Bliss. This album is an absolute thrill ride of fun and pure energy. It’s absolute bliss packed into 30 minutes of music. Lead singer Eva Hendricks is my indie-rock crush of the year, and her voice just makes me happy. This album is definitely going under the radar, which I find rude.
#18: Moses Sumney: Aromanticism
Wow, wow, wow, what a beautiful album. No man should be album to make music this gorgeous, or sing with such grace. Moses Sumney sounds like the first ray of bright sunlight after a torrential downpour. This album listens like a sonnet penned by William Shakespeare after one too many glasses of wine. It’s perfect romantic music, and it’s just exceptionally beautiful. “My wings are made of plastic” is a lyric that has floated around my head all year, like a lost balloon. There’s a mood behind this music, you have to find it, and experience this thing.
#17: Joey Bada$$- All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
This was the album Joey Bada$$ was supposed to make. I remember listening to his first mixtape, 1999, and thinking “this kid is the next coming of New York hip-hop.” He just has everything necessary. The soul, the rhyme-style, the mass appeal. He made the albums needed to get to this point, and now he’s making statements on a larger scale. “Temptation” is perhaps one of the most important songs of the year, and the message he’s sending on this thing can speak to all of us- white, brown, black, yellow, whatever. He’s remarking on the entire country, not just his community in Brooklyn. He’s an important and intelligent artist that we must protect.
#16: (Sandy) Alex G- Rocket
To me, this album is perfect road trip music. It sounds like pushing down the I-70 headed towards a bigger city, surrounded by miles and miles of nothing. There’s a lackadaisical sound in here, a hands-in-pockets modesty to the music. “Proud” moves along so gently it feels effortless. Alex G sings with such an earnest inflection, and the music matches this perfectly. It feels like a stroll downtown in your hometown, kicking stones.
#15: Gang of Youths- Go Further in Lightness
Are you ever so frustrated with life that you just want to run for miles and miles? You desire to feel that fire in your chest? You just want to disappear in a crowd. That’s what Gang Of Youths’ music can do. It’s potent and powerful, like a hit of emotional methamphetamine. The music is high octane lighter fluid, just needing one strike of a match to go up like the Fourth of July. These songs sound like a train heaving down the highway, nearly falling off the tracks, but keeping it together just enough. And there’s tremendous beauty in that. As the lyrics in “Let Me Down Easy” go “You give me a good reason to be heartsick again / To be here, to be strong, to be oddly and boldly estranged / From the loss and bitter years.”
#14: The National- Sleep Well Beast
The National have specialized in a style of sadness unmatched for the entirety of their career. Matt Berninger’s dark and dreary vocals layer so coolly on top of the Desner brother’s fiery guitars. However, they turned this equation on it’s head for this new album. All the components are there, but added are synthesizers, electronic drums, and an extreme sense of paranoia. The songs don’t sound like songs, instead, letters to self, written hurriedly and in what feels like a panic. But everything about it works. It’s truly unbelievable. These guys, The National, are masters of music.
#13: Young Thug- Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Thugger Girls
Young Thug is a national treasure. He needs to be protected. What he is able to do with music parallels what some of the world’s greatest musical anomalies (the Princes, the Bowies, the Thom Yorkes) have done- shatter barriers set for them. On EBBTG, Thugger completely exceeds any expectations placed on him, just as he did with his previous albums Jeffery and Slime Season 3. He can rap hard-as-hell (“Take Care”) and sing ballads with Future (“Relationship”) and croon over a bachata-inspired beat on the impeccably catchy “For Y’all.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Thank God for Young Thug.
#12: Tyler, the Creator- Scum Fuck Flower Boy
He did it! He finally made the album he was destined to make. Since the origin of Tyler the Creator, he has been painted as something he’s not. He’s been called crass, racist, rapist, obnoxious, and everything else unflattering. But then he goes and creates the most flattering album of the year. Tyler’s albums have all been building to this point. The musicality (Tyler produced every track on this thing) the lyrics, stunning and refreshing, the vibe of the album. It’s sunnier than anything he’s done before, and the colors he radiates sounds like a man who is finally in charge of who he really is, which is a super creative, lovely guy, who has been vastly misunderstood.
#11: Sampha- Process
I first heard Sampha on Drake’s “Too Much.” Here was this soulful British voice, weighing nearly 100 tons with emotion. As he sang, I could feel the heartbreak in his voice, and I was hooked. He reminds me of how I felt when I first heard Adelle sing. Now, on his debut album, he makes a statement. He is on of the brightest young faces in music today. His voice is so utterly unique, and the way he is able to craft a song is special. “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is one of the year’s most heartbreaking tracks, and “Blood On Me” might be the most important. Sampha’s debut album is a triumph, and I couldn’t be more excited to see where he goes from here.
#10: Lorde- Melodrama
Lorde is one of those artists that just radiates an energy so pure that it cannot be tainted by pop stardom. After her debut release “Pure Heroine” created a symphony of superstardom for this young New Zealand introvert, I wondered how she could follow this. Surely not with more catchy tunes, more revealing lyrics, and an even better album? But here I am, listening to Melodrama, dancing ferociously to “Green Light,” weeping my eyes out to “Liability,” and stunned by the majesty of this artist’s sophomore effort. Lorde and producer Jack Antonoff have created an album for everyone- the prettiest girl at he party, the loner, the emo kid, and the Prom Queen.
#9: The War on Drugs- A Deeper Understanding
A Deeper Understanding. What does that really mean? A deeper understanding of music? A deeper understanding of society? Or a deeper understanding of self. For Adam Granduciel, I believe this album represents all of these. The Philly dad-rock band, complete with layers of guitars, Bruce Springsteen-esque rhythms, and powerful lyrics, War on Drugs has made their most expressive and finely tuned album of their career. The song “Holdin’ On” is a clear-cut personal favorite, and could easily soundtrack many of life’s most beautiful and epic moments. “Thinking of a Place” borders on tear-jerking with how beautifully the guitars portray the emotion of a song. It’s a near perfect album.
#8: Jay Z- 4:44
Did someone spill the tea? Or should I say, Lemonade. After word got around that music’s most important and iconic couple, Jay Z and Beyonce, were amidst extramarital drama, everyone tuned in like it was the O.J. Simpson trial. Except if TMZ (The Messy Zone) reported every little dirty detail. So Beyonce had her say, and she said it all. With 4:44, Jay gets his chance to tell his side of the story, which ultimately reads, “I did it. I shouldn’t have done it. I’m a product of black culture in America, which is and always has been, fucked up beyond belief.” On this album, Jay sounds grown. He sounds like a man who has had to come to terms with the man he spent his whole life becoming. It’s a gorgeously produced album with Kanye-esque soul samples, slow and meditative lyricism, and Jay Z rapping like a man with something to prove again. This isn’t the gaudy Hov, like that Magna Carta bullshit he used to sell Samsung phones. This is a man, coming to terms with himself, his environment, his fidelity, and his society.
#7: LCD Soundsystem- American Dream
When LCD Soundsystem broke up in 2011, I was so sad. Here was this band that I had grown to love so dearly. I’d loved everything about them, their uncoolness, their style and sound, their unbelievably catchy songs. And now they were breaking up, at the height of their careers?! Thankfully that didn’t last long. 5 years later, we get the return of New York’s most cynical band, and with them, a new album, just as drenched in cynicism. Only this time, there’s a sense of responsibility where there used to not be one. James Murphy used to be utterly scathing with his pen, now he shows more restraint, like an older gentleman would. He pens his songs now skillfully, like a crossword puzzle. However, there is nothing changed when it comes to the dirty synths, the building crescendos of songs, and the sense of weirdness in this bizarre American world. If this is the American dream, it’s going to take a lot more LCD albums to get us through.
#6: Migos- C U L T U R E
In 2017, Migos invented the culture. There’s just no other way around it. I guess you could say Atlanta created the culture. The culmination of years and years of work, Southern strip-club bangers, Gucci Mane’s rise-and-fall and rise again, and the ascension of Three Brothers- the Migos- to rap’s highest peaks. Migos cut their teeth in the scene long before making it this big. They put out hit after hit, and fueled countless parties with their bangers. Then, finally, with a little help from Metro Boomin, the biggest producer in the country, they unleashed “Bad and Boujee,” and they were there. Between the meme-ification of the music, the adlibs, the unfamiliarity of 95% of the phrases, Migos caught everyone’s attention. There are just too many hits on this album to be excused. “T-Shirt,” “Slippery,” “What the Price,” “Kelly Price,” “All Ass,” I could list the entire track list. THEY’RE ALL BANGERS. No other rapper did that this year. All killer, no filler.
#5: Spoon- Hot Thoughts
As I’ve written before Spoon is the most consist band in rock and roll. Their sound is consistently changing, yet remaining in its wheelhouse. They’re never rewriting the textbook, but adding chapters that make you keep reading and flipping pages with intrigue. Britt Daniel is the fearless band leader and the glue of the band. His soulful croon, soaring and raspy at the same time guides the bands’ tight sound through song after song with ease. “Hot Thoughts” is a definitive statement, that the band is still able to churn out fun, adventurous, and complex songs at this point in their 9 album deep career. “WhisperI’llListentohearit” begins one way, and takes an insanely catchy turn halfway through. “I Ain’t the One” is the most cinematic song of the year. If I ever write a movie featuring a cool, building, eerie walk-up from a hero with a troubled past, this is the song I’ll use for it. This album is further proof, if you needed any, that Spoon is a masterclass in amazing American rock music.
#4: Vince Staples- Big Fish Theory
Vince Staples is one of the rare talents of our generation. Sophisticated and brilliant, yet hard-as-hell gang-affiliated Crip. Big Fish Theory is his departure from the traditional way of telling his story. As he did with breakout album Summertime ’06, he still raps with the aggression of a pit bull on bath salts with daddy problems. However, this album focuses intriguingly on the beats Vince has collected. Avant-dance producers SOPHIE and ARCA play a tremendous role in this album sounding the way it does. Skittering and jolting, clicking and clanking unpredictably while Vince lays down the coolest, slickest bars of his career. “Yeah Right” is a song that doesn’t sound like anything else produced this year, and features a ludicrously unhinged Kendrick Lamar verse. “Big Fish” is a classic Vince song that has a ridiculously catchy verse that will stick in your head. And “Rain Come Down” is one of the most ominous album closers of the year. Vince is just playing on a different level than everyone.
#3: BROCKHAMPTON- Saturation II
I could write a 20,000 word essay on the prolific boy band, BROCKHAMPTON. Lead by the esoteric and highly intelligent, openly gay Kevin Abstract, the group already has their own sound and marketing angle. Add on top of that 7 or 8 other rappers that have their own unique styles, including the stunning Ameer Vann, who raps with the aggression of DMX with the laid back coolness of Vince Staples. Saturation II is the second installment in a year-long ambush of ridiculously great music. Before the year is over, there will be a third. This staggering pace of the quantity music doesn’t take away from any of the quality. The album begins with “GUMMY” which might be the hardest hitting song I’ve ever heard. This song makes me want to flip a cop car. The album refuses to relent even an inch, getting more and more catchy with each song. “QUEER,” “JELLO,” “SWAMP,” and “SWEET” are all iconic BROCKHAMPTON songs. And there’s 12 more where they came from. So, needless to say, BROCKHAMPTON is my rookie-of-the-year winner. They’re also my most fascinating band story of the year. If you want to be on the right side of history, get on board with this new boy band that will take over the world like One Direction.
#2: SZA- CTRL
A year ago, nobody was giving SZA the respect she deserved. Whether they were ignoring her or just not paying attention, seemingly everyone glossed over this unmistakably unique songstress with some of the most fire lyrics in R&B. I guarantee you, nobody’s glossing her over now. SZA released her long-awaited debut, CTRL, to critical acclaim, from critics, sure, but mainly from fans. The reception for this album was nothing short of glorious. Fans were singing every lyric of the album like it was gospel, and truthfully, it almost is. SZA bares every bit of herself on this album, her insecurities, her fears, her lust, and her strength. She said before the album was released she wrote that she self-conscious of the album and didn’t think it would go over well. Judging by the multiple Grammy nominations, it went over better than she ever could’ve imagined. “The Weekend” is an anthem for side-chicks everywhere. “Love Galore” is a definitive classic, and “Garden (Say it Like Dat)” is one of the best songs of the year by miles and miles. SZA is a force to be reckoned with. Just like everything on TDE, this is a world-conquering album. I cannot wait to see where SZA goes from here, because it will surely be incredible.
#1: Kendrick Lamar- DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rapper alive. There is simply no other way to put it. There is competition, then there is murdering your competition, which is exactly what Kendrick did with DAMN. Now, it’s not like this is anything new. Kendrick has been rapping circles around the game since Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, but he’s taken a rare approach. He’s written a film, essentially, then he wrote a theological critique of society and the black man’s place in it (institutionalism, survival’s guilt, etc.) and now he’s on his fuck-the-world, I’m the best in the game, flow. Kendrick goes harder on this album than he ever has before. “DNA” is a banger unlike anything he’s ever done before. “HUMBLE” created one of the most identifiable hooks in music. “ELEMENT” is Kendrick at his very finest. Even the title, “DAMN” is the only way to look at this piece of work. Like, DAMN. He really is this good. Nobody can compete. Then there’s the idea that the album is supposed to be listened back-to-front, and not front-to-back. I’ve tried both, and I can tell you this much, the journey is different, but the destination is the same- Kendrick is untouchable by any other rapper in the game. In fact, one of the only features on this album is U2. Fucking Bono BARELY made it on this album. This might not even be Kendrick’s best album, but it is definitely the best of this year.
Tyler The Creator performed in front of a sold-out audience at the Truman in Kansas City last night as a part of his Flower Boy tour. He played a majority of new songs, with some old gems thrown in the mix, and the fervent crowd loved every minute of it.
The charismatic rapper swooned to his die-hard fans with opener “Where This Flower Blooms” and the screaming audience made the first lines of the song inaudible. Tyler performed on an elevated platform on the stage where he danced like Kanye West, grooving wildly to the music.
Tyler then kicked the show into second gear with the blistering and guitar-heavy track “DEATHCAMP.” While Tyler shows his emphatic and loving side on Flower Boy, the Cherry Bomb opener is filled to the brim with crushing aggression. The barricade, separating the audience from the stage, rattled and shook like a thunderous earthquake was hitting the venue.
Tyler played around with these two vibes perfectly throughout the show, embarking on a sweet ballads like “Foreward,” or throwing down bombardments of sound like “IFHY.” On songs like “Tamale” the crowd jumped emphatically in the air and shook the ground.
The clear-cut sing-a-long favorite was Goblin standout “She” which the crowd recited perfectly and sung beautifully along to the Frank Ocean crooned chorus.
During the intro of “Who Dat Boy” Tyler asked every member of the audience “put your phones away. I want you to remember this.” The crowd did just that, and came the closest all night to bringing down the venue with their incredible energy.
It wasn’t all turning up though. Tyler lead the crowd in a beautiful recital of “November” leading into “Glitter.” These songs clearly resonated with the audience. When the show concluded with “See You Again,” fans hugged and smiled with warmness, because they had just seen their favorite artist live. It’s moments like that, proving that concerts are clearly more than just the music.
Tyler the Creator has seen a huge evolution in his career, and on “Flower Boy,” he is at his most musically focused and lyrically gifted. His honesty has never been so relatable and with the rate that he is elevating as a musician, the sky is absolutely the limit for the Odd Future commander-in-chief.
21 Savage, Offset, Metro Boomin- Without Warning Whenever two of the most popping artists join up for a project, it’s bound to attract an unbelievable amount of attention. For example: Kanye and Jay Z, Young Thug and Future, Lil Wayne and T-Pain. In this vein, artists will consistently continue to push the envelope of the album release by dropping these massive projects.
This week’s hottest album is a collaboration of 21 Savage and Offset (1/3 of the Migos.) It’s called Without Warning. This alone could be a project worth listening to. Two of the hottest rappers in the game trading bars. However, the album gets taken up a notch severely by the inclusion of powerhouse producer Metro Boomin, who crafted all of the beats on this thing.
This album was dropped on Halloween, as a surprise release. It couldn’t have been planned any better because these songs are scary. Scary good, scary aggressive, scary focused.
“Ghostface Killers” starts off the album with an icy and eerie beat. It sounds like church bells of a deserted town that was just ransacked by two gun-slinging outlaws. The chorus is impeccably catchy and is filled with Migos-famous adlibs. It’s a total boomer. 21 shows up sounding as calculating as a serial killer. Travis Scott also spontaneously shows up to take this thing over to edge.
“Nightmare” has an equally terrifying beat, sounding straight out of a horror movie. Makes sense that the chorus goes “Freddie Kruger, give ’em a nightmare / Soon as you close your eyes, nigga we right there.” Can you imagine a scarier scenario? You’re happily sleeping and then when you wake up, Offset and 21 Savage are in your room, undoubtedly holding heavy artillery.
The team of almost-certified-killers sounds most treacherous on “My Choppa Hates Niggas” which has an ominous flute on the beat and a little girl’s laughter randomly appearing. If there is anything scarier than a little girl laughing during a horror movie, than I don’t know what it is. I mean, those two little girls from The Shining still terrify me to this day.
As we’ve seen before, this formula works. Surprise release an album, have two or three enormous stars, and watch the internet implode. This will almost definitely continue happening, and I’m perfectly okay with that. These super albums are just part of the culture now.
Single of the Week
N.E.R.D. & Rihanna- “Lemon”
I’ve been waiting for new N.E.R.D. music for over three years now. The unstoppable production duo of Pharrell and Chad Hugo make the most accessible yet off-the-wall music of our generation. They also compile some of the biggest artists in the game to put on features, in unique ways. For their return single, “Lemon,” they come back in a major way.
On “Lemon” Pharrell bodies the first half of the track, which bounces around and bumps with unbelievable booming bass. Then, without any warning, RIHANNA COMES THROUGH SPITTING BARS! Rihanna raps better than 95% of the rappers doing it today, and she sounds so fucking cool. “It’s Rihanna nigga, my constellation is Space” she says, and honestly, she’s completely telling the truth. It’s Queen RiRi’s world, and we don’t deserve to occupy space, but I’m so glad we do.
Music Videos of the Week
Rich Tha Kid & Kendrick Lamar – “New Freezer”
This song is a feel good banger. This is just a really fun time to watch. The beat is a boomer with some insane bass line ripping through this thing. It clicks and clanks around while Rich Tha Kid flexes throughout the his verse. The reason this is a music video of the week is because we get to see Kendrick Lamar rap his verse, looking unbelievably cool in a Lakers sweatsuit, eating Chinese take-out. If that’s not the best thing you’ve seen all week, you must be having a pretty good week.
The War on Drugs – “Nothing to Find”
So this music video is incredible, and it’s incredibly simple. A young girl is on the road with a plant man. He’s a man made out of plants. They dance, the shoplift, they are best friends. Until life, as it tends to do, gets the best of us. The emotional ending of this thing is a lot to handle. You don’t think it’ll hit you as hard as it does, but next thing you know, you’re at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf spilling tears into your Green tea and the saltiness is kind of nice, but you wish it wasn’t there.
Goldlink touched down at The Granada Theatre last night to perform an electrifying show, sponsored by KJHK 90.7 and SUA.
Goldlink is almost too talented. Almost to the point of being unfair to everyone else. Not only can he rap faster than 98% of the rappers in the game, he can sing and perform like a true pro. His style and his vibe elevate him from the rest of the genre. All of these components came together during his extraordinary live show.
Something that Goldlink is especially special at is his rapping ability. His toned down, mellow voice allows for his cadence to ride the beat so effortlessly. It’s like he’s running down directions of how to catch the E-Train so fast that you know you’ll get lost as soon as he finishes his sentence. His words form these parables and loops that are so infectious to listen to.
On songs like “Herside Story” he is able to dance over the melodic track and find flows I never imagined possible. He tells stories that are so relatable and his words are believable. On tracks like “Kokomoe Freestyle” he unleashes some of the fieriest bars on top of an absolute bruiser of a beat. This song is absolutely unreal, and could be any artist’s best song by a couple miles. When performing this song live, the crowd became unruly in the best possible way. Hands were flying in the air as every eye stayed on Goldlink, who delivered every word perfectly. The beat knocked hard like the next door neighbors when you play this song too loud.
It’s a testiment to how good Goldlink is that “Kokomoe Freestyle” is not his best song. That came at the end of his set. For his final song, Goldlink performed his biggest hit to date, “Crew,” a possible song-of-the-year choice. The melody on this song, the movie-esque sound, the chorus, which is catchy as hell, and Goldlink’s crushing verse played out on stage like an anthem. The crowd went absolutely ape for this song, rapping along to every word, singing the chorus like it’s a Weeknd song. They even knew every word of Shy Glizzy’s verse. Goldlink was so impressed that he performed the song twice in a row.
During his performance in Lawrence, Goldlink played through most of his new album, At What Cost, as well as some older gems. It was a vibrant and electric show that ended far too soon. He could have performed for another hour and the crowd would have eaten every song up like a snack.
Goldlink is a rare talent, one that will be revealed in time. He’s already gained recognition for “Crew,” but his star path is on a major ascension. This guy is talented enough to be the next big thing, so don’t wait. See him when he comes to your town.
There is a superstar radiating energy on stage to a sea of screaming fans. She is electrifying, surprising, supreme. Her name is Princess Nokia and she’s a Puerto Rican rapper from New York City and she is the next big name in hip-hop.
The things that make Princess Nokia amazing were all on display last night during an electrifying show at The Granada, put on by KJHK 90.7 FM and SUA at KU. The Afro-Puerto Rican rapper and singer burst onstage with the energy that rivaled an entire football team blasting through a banner. She immediately tore into some of her most hard-hitting tracks, like “Tomboy,” “Kitana,” and “Brujas.”
The crowd, which was filled prominently with women of all ages and races, shouted along to each and every word. Nokia smiled and seemed to appreciate the love that was radiating back at her from the audience. In turn, she gave that love right back with every song she performed.
Right off the bat, Nokia made it clear that her shows are safe spaces for freedom of expression and spirit. Women and men of all genders and identities are welcome to turn up and feel confident in themselves, and if they didn’t, she would fix it. It’s an especially important aspect of concerts- to feel comfortable. With an impassioned speech outlining how the show would go, she raced into more bangers and crowdsurfed on her adoring fans on a giant inflatable piece of pizza.
Princess Nokia’s rapping ability is in the same vein as the elite of female rappers- Missy Elliot, Lil Kim, Ms. Lauryn Hill. Nokia is able to spit bars on top of these crazy, hard-hitting beats. She catches every word and delivers them with ferocity, like a true New York rapper.
The energy in the venue was on a different level than I’ve ever seen it before. People came to this show to dance, to get wild, and to feel empowered. There were dance circles all throughout the crowd, and the pit was a hot, crowded zone of die-hard fans with fire in their voices as they rapped along.
It was a special moment in Lawrence, last night. A true artist, on a rise to success that will be seen in astonishment a few years from now, touched down in this small town, and made her presence known. Princess Nokia is a unique, unparalleled artist, and to experience her live is the embodiment of all these features. Much like Chance the Rapper played a small venue in 2013 and is now performing on festival stages, the same will almost undoubtedly happen for this gem of a talent.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana rapper YoungBoy Never Broke Again took to the Granada Theater stage in Lawrence, KS last night and blazed through a set full of rap bangers and street-driven hip-hop narratives.
NBA YoungBoy electrified the crowded venue full of fans with his fiery bars and infectious beats. His songs inflict a sense of urgency with the listener, while still resonating with the streets that raised him and remaining catchy. As he performed in front of a raucous crowd of fans, his words hit like haymakers on top of cantankerous, Southern-style, syrupy beats.
The NBA YoungBoy story is a fascinating, and unfortunately, all too familiar one. His life has been littered with violence and crime. In 9th grade, Kentrell Gaulden dropped out of school and took to a life of crime. Soon after, he was booked for robbery. He began gaining traction in the rap game with his debut mixtape, 38 Baby, but his ascension to fame also coincided with a new charge- this time for attempted first-degree murder. Gaulden eventually pleaded down to aggravated assault with a firearm, but did not avoid jail time. In turn, he found a chance to rehabilitate himself.
It was during his stint in jail that he truly came to light about his career and his long term goals. As soon as he was released, he unveiled “Untouchable,” one of his most triumphant songs about reinvention and resilience. The song traces back to the mistakes that he’s made, and the vow to not let these mistakes make you. “Gotta maintain, stay on my grind no I can’t be no fool / Naw I can’t slip nor I can’t fumble, gotta stick and move”
YoungBoy’s newest release, AI YoungBoy, reflects on the time he spent in jail, the progression of his life moving forward and his gritty life trying to stay alive on the Louisana streets. It’s an illuminating view on a young rapper, who is battling with his inner demons and the struggle to make it through this life unscathed by violence.
For how grisly YoungBoy’s life has been, his live show is a celebration of the man he is today and how far he’s come from the jail cell and the gutter. YoungBoy raps with a confidence unmatched for a 17-year-old. His voice, calm yet icy, is saturated with the pressure of a kid trapped under his circumstances. He bites down on syllables and spits out what he sees when he looks at his life, and that’s not always picturesque.
There are few rappers that can paint pictures like YoungBoy can, and his rap sheet validates every word that comes out his mouth. While other rappers stress the importance of cars and jewelry, YoungBoy preaches loyalty, durability and overcoming the crushing weight of life, especially that of a life with virtually no escape. For YoungBoy, that escape used to be crime, and that crime nearly claimed him. Now, he’s able to put those experiences, that pain, into vivid and bleak portraits of the life he’s lived.
For so many, rap is a just a genre, a playlist to put on to party. However, there are certain artists that are able to show that rap is more than that. It’s a way of life. It’s a gritty glimpse into the streets we don’t see for ourselves, and the statistics we read about on the news. If you really want to know what violence is, you can put on a YoungBoy song and feel it for yourself. This is an artist who doesn’t just make rap music, he makes life music.