Sampha - Process: I was personally surprised to find out that Process was Sampha’s debut album; after hearing him sing with Solange on Don’t Touch My Hair, Kanye on Saint Pablo, Drake on Too Much, and SBTRKT on SBTRKT, I just assumed he already had his own extensive solo career. Sampha has always brought a soothing touch of neo-soul to every track he collaborates on, and this album feels like the spiritual continuation to all his past features.
In Process, Sampha maintains his downbeat relaxing tone, but by doing it all by himself, he establishes himself as more than just a killer feature. Tracks like "Blood on Me" and "(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano" are introspective in ways that Sampha has not been before. He explores his youth and details different moments throughout his life. Artists rarely choose to depict themselves at their most vulnerable but Sampha’s vocal style itself sounds vulnerable, it’s if he were always on the edge of cracking.
Sampha has a long way to go before he can completely distance himself from the magnificent work he’s done with other artists, but if he continues creating albums like Process it won’t be an impossible task. RAMIRO
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2!!!, 4
Dinamarca - Holy Other: Been meaning to add this one for a bit cos Dinamarca finally came out with some new tracks for your club kit. If you’re familiar with the STAYCORE fare, then you know what’s in store: expressive club breaks, tunes, and a dash of big bass. Then there’s the gabber. A previous electronic music director long ago predicted the rise of gabber back into the mix, and I dare say that prophecy is becoming reality. The soft gabber™ wave has begun pouring in through the cracks in the club, and its only a matter of time before it all comes crashing in.
Here’s the thing about gabber though: it has to be the proper tempo. Although Dinamarca expressed in interviews that hardcore/gabber was a key influence in the release (evident most boldly in the eponymous track “Holy”), his raeggaton tempos are too slow. I’ve found the album works best at 160 or higher. Its kind of like the secret cheat code to unlocking the real album in the album: just slide you tempo wheel way up for maximum tune. CAM'RON
Recommended: 1, 3, 5
RIYL: you know what I’m gonna say… STAYCORE, GHE20G0TH1K, Fade to Mind, gabber™, Miami 2016 (comp album)
Band of Other Brothers - City of Cranes: So, Band of Other Brothers is a collaboration of Nashville and New York based musicians, featuring guitarist Nir Felder, saxophonist Jeff Coffin, bassist Will Lee, drummer Keith Carlock, and led by keyboardist Jeff Babko. As my friend Tucker would say, these are some pretty heavy cats.
From the first track "Bar Fight," the band displays its raucous energy in full, with Coffin's double saxophone wizardry and Babko's terrifying organ solo. Energy perfuses every track on the record; even the more mellow tracks like "Yoake" have an infectious vibe. Some other standout tracks for me include “Miss Fancy Pants” with its righteously funky horns and "Heartlandia" with a bluesy country feel.
There’s a lot to love about this band and the way they perform on this record. Each musician has experience playing a huge variety of music, and it shows as the band displays a soulful Western sound melded smoothly with funk and modern jazz: all concomitants of today's improvised music scene. While the musicians’ key strengths shine through the whole project, especially Carlock’s muscular drumming, Coffin’s lyrical funk stylings, and Babko’s inventive harmony and subtle comping, the group also has an undeniable chemistry, sometimes literally finishing each other’s phrases. If you're down with some heavy tunes from some of the more current techules of the American jazz scene, definitely give this record a listen. JATIN
RIYL: Jeff Coffin’s Mu’tet, Bela Fleck, Snarky Puppy
Recc: 2, 3, 6, 8
Jonwayne - Rap Album Two: It’s been almost 4 years since L.A. local rapper Jonwayne dropped his debut rap album thru Stones Throw. Over those 4 years, homie has since been dropped from the label for mysterious reasons and disappeared under the radar. We’ve seen a little bit of him off the mixtape he dropped in 2015, Jonwayne is Retired, but he’s stayed elusive bout what’s been going on in his life. Last week, homie dropped Rap Album 2 off of his own label, Authors Records — and son has a lot to get off his chest, it seems.
Rap Album 2 is by far Jonwayne’s most personal album. Whereas his previous releases have trended toward braggadocio rap, every track here adheres to this theme of what’s been going on since he disappeared. He spits bars about his problems with alcohol- how he woke up in a hotel room covered in his own vomit (another kinda spitting). His burned bridges with friends at his former record label. His leaving the rap game to work on his self. This is Jonwayne at his most vulnerable, and it sounds ill.
The subject matter is stoic, so don’t expect any anthems (I mean, it’s underground hip-hop, you really shouldn’t be expecting that out of this anyway), but it’s chock-full of heavy lyricism and wordplay. If you into that sorta thing, it’s tight. Better listened to on a rainy day. JAISON
RIYL: Busdriver, Zeroh, Aesop Rock, MF DOOM
Recommended Tracks: “Out of Sight”, “City of Lights”, “Afraid of Us”, “Blue Green”, and “Hills”
Mr. Elevator - When the Morning Greets You: Mr. Elevator & the Brain Hotel is an LA synth psych pop band. When the Morning Greets You is their second album, released by Rad Cat Records, following their original 60’s inspired release on Burger and Lolipop Records, Nico & Her Psychedelic Subconscious. The songs on this album are all really upbeat and happy-sounding, especially the first one, “When the Morning Greets You.” It’s the same good old psychedelia as on their last record, but a more optimistic tone. My favorite song is “Are You Hypnotized?” Check out their YouTube channel for some trippy music videos! CHRISTINA
RIYL: Mystic Braves, The Growlers
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part 1: 4th World War: Erykah is #1. Whether she’s dropping knowledge on the Breakfast Club, DJing under her alias, Lo Down Loretta Brown, bringing out the socially conscious side of our favorite rappers, streaking through LA for a video shoot, or working as a doula in her spare time, this woman is onto something. She coined the term woke (seriously – check track 8) and has been a voice of political activism and hope from the start of her career, giving marginalized groups a voice in the greater American narrative.
New Amerykah Part One is one of my favorite records of all time. In interviews, Erykah says that her son introduced her to garage band in early ‘07, and she recorded like 75 demos in one year. Her plan was to put them into three separate albums, which explains the title. (Part Two is rad too, but we’ll save that for another time.) Other collaborators include Roy Ayers, Questlove, Om’Mas Keith, and Taz Arnold, so you know this shit grooves.
This record is an act of social and political resistance, as Badu calls for listeners to come together and find strength through their communities. On “Healer,” she examines hip-hop as a uniting force for marginalized communities, arguing that it’s bigger than religion, bigger than the government. She pays homage to hip-hop and its role in the American narrative, specifically sending love to J Dilla, who died earlier that year (“Telephone” is also a tribute to Dilla, so keep an eye out for that).
If there’s one track to hear, it’s “Twinkle,” which I’d argue is one of the most underrated songs in her entire discography. It breaks down systematic oppression of the black community in major U.S. cities, as the chorus repeats, “they keep us uneducated, sick and depressed, doctor I’m addicted, now I’m under arrest.” The monologue at the end of this track is heavy and so so real.
This whole album is stunning. It’s not only lyrically brilliant, but also sonically versatile, and it covers a lot of ground. Mad beautiful, and as relevant today as it’s ever been. ZOE
RIYL: D’Angelo, Common, Lauryn Hill
Recommended tracks: 2, 4, 5, 7
AZ - Doe or Die: East Coast rapper AZ is commonly known for having one of the best verses off of Nas's first album Illmatic ( "Life's a bitch" ). I don't mean no disrespect to Nas, but it was personally my favorite. There's a certain sense of street wisdom to his lyrics, and the kid come rhyme, feel me? "However we know we all gotta go; so long as we leaving thievin' we'll be leaving with some kinda dough" Aside from that, I feel son's solo career is underrated. Doe or Die is 12 tracks of solid flameeee. Raw lyricism over Ill production. JAISON
RIYL: Nas, 90's Hip Hop
Recommended Tracks: "Happy Jackie", "I Feel for You", and "Mon Money Mo Murder" (featuring a dope Nas verse).
Seether - Disclaimer: Formed as Saron Gas in South Africa in the late ‘90s, Seether remains one of the most musically progressive and quintessentially dope heavy rock acts still prominent today. As we await the release of their eighth studio album, entitled Poison the Parish, set to hit shelves on May 12th, let’s take a look back at the record that initially defined the group now highlighting festivals and worldwide tours year after year.
Disclaimer, released in 2002, features a number of heavy guitar-laced tracks that achieve the catchiness and “hum-ability” of the pop sphere, while managing to retain the aggressive pathos so often characteristic of the metal genre. Songs like “Needles” and “Gasoline” evoke a strong feeling of having absolutely no emotions whatsoever because doing so makes you weak, while other compositions, such as “Sympathetic,” pump the brakes a little and allow for some creative diversion with regard to the rest of the album.
Overall, this is a pretty cool band. If I could describe this record with one tagline, I’d call it “the album Korn might make if they could just get to the point already.” This is a straightforward heavy rock album that gives you what ya paid for and nothing else, but it’s one you’re gonna want to keep playing until your mp3s automatically delete themselves from all the anger. JT (Guest DJ Review)
RIYL: Disturbed, Shinedown, Korn, Three Days Grace
Recommended Tracks: 3, 5, 7