Archive for the ‘Hip-Hop’ Category

I’m probably not going to get a lot of love for say this, but I never really got into A Tribe Called Quest back in the 90s (don’t yell, I’m sorry!) To be fair, I was so immersed in the rock/alternative music-sphere, it was difficult to pay attention to anything else. However, as I’ve grown up, matured, and broadened my horizons, I’ve become a fan of any good music. When A Tribe Called Quest dropped their album We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service this year (18 years after their last studio album,) it was high time I paid attention. Here’s my review (from the perspective of a new fan.)

What I found most refreshing on this rap/hip-hop album was how real it sounds, compared to today’s hip-hop. It’s not overproduced, no auto- tuning, just rappers spitting out their rhymes, to a light catchy beat that keeps you in, but doesn’t overpower the track. It’s nostalgic, old school hip-hop in 2016 daylight, and it totally annihilates today’s wanna be rappers (Tyga, cough cough).

They’re not going on about useless crap like poppin’ bottles, or how much money they have. They’re having a conversation with the people, with each other, with whoever’s listening. They talk about racial injustice on “The Killing Season”; politics on “Conrad Tokyo” and the power of today’s youth on “Dis Generation.”

If that weren’t enough to intrigue you, let’s talk about the fact that the 2 disc album is loaded with guest collaborators like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes, and obviously (?) Jack White (I guess his appearance on Beyoncé’s “Dont Hurt Yourself” got him access to all new kinds of music,) to name a few.

A Tribe Called Quest started out in the 80s as a duo of rapper/MC Q-Tip and late rapper Phife Dawg (who passed away during the making of this album.) They became a trio/quartet, and released 5 albums in the 90s, during the whole east coast vs. west coast rap rivalry. They were part of a music era that no longer exists – 90s rap isn’t really a thing anymore. But with this album, Tribe brings that energy, that feeling, that sound, and those lyrics that defined that time in history. All these years later, they’re still representing.

Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit: I’m not the biggest Kanye West fan. It’s not that I don’t think he’s any good – he’s had some tracks that I dig, he can rap, he’s a great producer, but his albums were just never my style. Not to mention, his incessant tom foolery and antics very easily put me off him all together. What kind of musician tries that hard to be in the spotlight? That probably explains why I never really gave any of his music a fair chance, and why it took me nearly 6 years to attempt to listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

I hate to say it, but it’s a work of art. West wrote and produced every track (with help, of course;) managed to make his social commentary, use his vulgarities, get sinister, all the while maintaining a solid musical landscape, and keeping listeners in tune with all of it. The key thing on this album was collaboration. Stars from the hip-hop/R&B game like Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Raekwon, John Legend and Pusha T all have writing credits. Swizz Beatz and RZA assisted in the production area, and most surprisingly, indie artist-producer Bon Iver also appears on the album. Talk about unstoppable.

It’s like West took the best of the best in the field, got everyone to work together, and made one of his most musical albums to date. How did I miss this? Honestly, I vaguely recall the single “Runaway” being released as a lengthy video, and I just didn’t have the time/patience for Kanye, Kanye and more Kanye. But this is album is so Kanye, in the sense that it’s not Kanye at all, therefore making it exactly Kanye – you know what I mean?

West is a great musician. He can rap, write, produce. He obviously has a specific vision when it comes to his art, and  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the first time you can see it. Maybe it’s high time West packs up the craziness, calms down on his Tweets, and just really focuses on his craft. He has some genius inside him – imagine what he could do if he fully tapped into it.

On top of being an electronic/hip-hop artist, DJ and producer, Kaytranada (aka Louis Kelvin Celestin) can add 2016 Polaris Music Prize winner to his repertoire – even beating out the likes of Drake and The Weeknd. The Polaris Prize may not be well known to most, but it is probably one of the most coveted awards out there, and that’s because it recognizes the best full-length Canadian album, based on artistry – not sales or popularity.

Kaytranada is a Haitian-Canadian artist based out of Montreal. 99.9% is an incredibly accessible album, because it has something for everyone. DJ tracks sans lyrics, so you can appreciate his 70s funk-like beats with new age twists, and also his super-synth 80s vibes.

He fulfills the guest artist quota on several occasions. UK electronic pair AlunaGeorge appears on “Together” giving it just the right amount of soul; Toronto-based hip-hop instrumentalists BadBadNotGood show up on “Weight Off;” Rapper Phonte lends his rhymes on “One Too Many,” which marry well with Kaytranada’s sounds to create a classic dance track. Most notably, however, is the resurgence of R&B sensation Craig David on the instant hit, “Got It Good.”

99.9% takes the listener on a musical journey. It’s the type of album that can get a dance party started and keep it going. It’s the type of album that can be on in the background at a dinner party. Distinct and precise use of sounds and instruments, and a wide range of vocals make it the type of album that suits all tastes and is appropriate for any occasion. If you’re still not convinced of Kaytranada’s musical prowess, the following video should make you doubt no more: a dancing robot, scat singing and a dope beat. Gold.