What’s up music lovers?! We are officially one third through the year, and music album releases–particularly in hip hop–have been high in both quantity and quality. The amount of ‘surprise’ drops we’ve seen already has been something special, and it can honestly be hard to sift through it all. That’s why we here at WUD Music have done our best to highlight some of the most prominent releases from 2015, with special commentary on our favorites. The following are listed in order of their release. Let’s dive in.
Rae Sremmurd – SremmLife
I heard “No Type” for the first time in a while last night, and it was glorious. A mood booster in any situation, Mike WiLL Made-It’s beats are designed to turn people up. While the duo known as Rae Sremmurd (‘ear’ and ‘drummers’ backwards) are new to the bigger stage, don’t be deceived. These guys have an energy unlike many of their older rap colleagues, and this album reflects that energy.
Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$
You can check my review of B4.DA.$$ for Jonk Music by clicking this long ass link here.
Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Year after year, Drake earns a bit more of my respect. With his shotgun drop of IYRTITL, he has finally been established in my personal lens as a legitimate hitmaker MC. Right from the opening track, “Legend” Drake uses this mixtape-album-hybrid to showcase the most boastful rap I’ve heard in recent memory. It’s confident, carefree, and chock full of lyrics ready for candid use at social gatherings (not necessarily because they’re appropriate, but because they’re fun to say). If you haven’t told someone you’ve been running through (insert your city of residence here) with your woes, you need to stop sleeping now.
Big Sean – Dark Sky Paradise
I don’t really fuck with Big Sean (as he doesn’t fuck with me, apparently), buuuuut he appears to have strung together enough songs to have a notable album in 2015. Features from Kanye, Drake, and Lil Wayne with production credits from DJ Mustard, Boi 1-da, and Mike WiLL Made-it aren’t too shabby either. I haven’t listened to it too much, so I requisitioned the opinion of a friend for this one:
Sam would also like you to know how game-changing the extended version of “Paradise” is. Sean goes in.
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (By Joe McAsey)
Everyone has likely heard about Kendrick Lamar’s new record To Pimp A Butterfly, and that it is already in contention for album of the year. Any review that I can give for it would never be able to do it justice, but I hope to pinpoint at least some of the reasons why it could stand as one of the best hip hop albums of decade.
One aspect of this album that makes it so important is its cultural relevance in terms of lyrical content. With an increasing number of publicized incidents of police violence against black people, race has become a huge topic. Any given song off of the album addresses race in some way. You’ll find that Kendrick has quite a bit to say about race issues in society today.
Another interesting dimension of the record is its place in Kendrick Lamar’s discography. After releasing a classic such as good kid m.A.A.d city, it is nearly impossible to follow up and deliver. The album contains a strong funk influence, which reconnects with the some of the roots of black music and black pride. The genre also places Butterfly in a completely different realm from from his previous record. He does not try to recreate good kid m.A.A.d city, although some of the important themes carry over.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of the meaning within the album, but if you have not listened to it much or at all, you need to hear it. Even if you don’t enjoy the music itself, the lyrics say a lot about society today. If you are interested in reading more, you can check out my track breakdown off of the first song on the record “Wesley’s Theory.” This track manages to pack the major themes and metaphor of a “pimped butterfly” in under five minutes.
Thanks to Joey for this contribution. You can check out more of his stuff at Cup O’ Joe Music.
Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful (By Brennan Haelig)
Back in March, gourmet chef-turned-MC Action Bronson released his major label debut LP Mr. Wonderful on Atlantic/Vice Records. After just the first few tracks, it’s clear that Bronson wrote the album as more of a cohesive project rather than focusing on individual tracks, even stating that “I don’t care about individual tracks, I’m trying to create a complete, classic project”. Overall the album favors production from live instruments over computerized beats. With production credits from Mark Ronson (of “Uptown Funk” fame) and Alchemist to Statik Selektah, Mr. Wonderful takes listeners on a journey through a variety of soundscapes. Most of the instrumentals are laced with influence from jazz, funk and blues. The lead single “Baby Blue” (featuring Chance The Rapper) stands out as one of the album’s most intricate tracks. Action Bronson tells a story of love lost, and makes his singing debut on the crooning chorus of the track. The album features various interludes and instrumental sections that add a nice flavor to the LP, seguing seamlessly from track to track. The lyrical content encompasses a lot of the same material we’ve heard from Action before, from lavish adventures to boastful metaphors, sprinkled with a fair share of references to marijuana and gourmet cuisine. The project concludes with “Easy Rider”, Bronsoliño’s bad-boy anthem to debauchery and the rock star life (“who gives a fuck? I’m a sinner”). The track sets the mood perfectly for Mr. Wonderful to “ride the Harley into the sunset”, closing out the album in true Action Bronson fashion.
Props to Brennan for this review. You can find him on Twitter.
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt
(by Laura Oberwetter)
2 years after the successful release of “Doris”, Earl Sweatshirt is back with the darkly minimal I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. Doris was by no means the feel good album of the year, but it’s amusing samples and features, quick verses, and lighthearted beats are now almost completely gone. I Don’t Like Shit is a deep, grim motion of poignant maturation for Earl.
The opening track, “Huey”, is as lively as the album gets with its carefree organ and bright sound effects. Following the relatively cheerful “Huey” are songs like “Grief” and “Faucet”, laden with somber and distorted noise; the tempos lumber along so slowly that it feels like these tracks could fall apart at any moment. It’s stripped down, letting Earl and his verses take the front seat before wobbling and wavering melodies. The gloomy, bare music only makes sense paired with the lyrics. Earl Sweatshirt isn’t a “pop that molly” lyricist anymore. He talks about self-medicating to cope with the loss of his grandmother, the shadows of addiction, longing for solidarity while surrounded by people he mistrusts, and the trouble that fame and attention have brought him. It’s intimate, almost to the point of discomfort.
Although it’s a move in a new direction from his past work, this may be a more accurate representation of Earl as an artist. In at interview for NPR’s Microphone Check, Earl Sweatshirt says,“[I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside] is the first thing that I’ve said that I fully stand behind”. It may take fans a couple listens to readjust their vision of Earl’s style, but the honesty and effort put into this album is salient, and likely well received. Some artists can’t pull off a dramatic shift in style; evidently, Earl Sweatshirt is not one of those artists.
Props to Lauren her contribution. She too, is on Twitter.
Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb
Announced soon after fellow Odd Future friend Earl Sweatshirt’s album, Cherry Bomb is the most recent “surprise release” we’ve seen. What’s not a surprise is how Tyler’s sound continues to evolve, slowly shifting from internet rap to heavily jazz-influenced pieces. Tracks like “FIND YOUR WINGS”, “2SEATER”, and “FUCKING YOUNG/PERFECT” showcase Tyler’s jazzy style, while the album’s self-titled track and “DEATHCAMP” show the rapper can still exude the DGAF attitude he’s been known for. It’s wide-ranging project, so it definitely takes a more open mind to enjoy.
Hope this puts y’all on to some new stuff. By NO means is this a comprehensive list, so if you’re looking for more I would check out Wikipedia. Brennan would have you know that list does not include MOD SUN, and I would have you know it doesn’t include CRASHprez. Until next time, enjoy the Hip Hop.