Favourite Albums of 2017 part 1

This is nothing new here, and an evolution rather of something I did previously. This year, I’ve just been immersing myself in what I feel is quality music. Rather that just writing a review on every single project, why not see the year off in style and do a top album compilation. Divided into two parts, this is my “Favourite Albums of 2017”. Enjoy.

At What Cost – GoldLink

The DC rapper’s stock has been rising since he dropped The God Complex in 2014. A Complex feature, Rick Rubin collabs and a spot on the XXL Freshman Class in 2015 later and he finally dropped his debut album since his RCA record deal.
At What Cost is a salute to GoldLink’s hometown, the birthplace of go-go music, Washington D.C. There are groovy go-go feels running through majority of the tracks and generally in the theme of the album from the skits to the artwork which are married 1200x630bbwith his ‘future bounce’ vibe (Hip-Hop/House). He further salutes with having prominent D.C. legends Mýa and Wale as guest features. Couple trap-like songs towards the end of the album as granted with the times do make the album fizzle out so track listing could be better but it doesn’t take away majorly from the strength of this album. “Meditation” with Jazmine Sullivan has its groovy baseline and party-like beat and synths; “Roll Call”  with Mya is disco sweetly mixed with base guitars and violins. Definitely my favourite songs on the album along with “Summatime” with Wale. Seeing him perform live last month definitely brought the album to life and reaffirmed what I believed all along, he is undoubtedly a showman. “Crew” almost serves as the patriarch of the album. It has performed very well chart-wise and garnered GoldLink his first Grammy nomination so I wish him good luck on that front. If you need funk and groove in your life, I present to you the album to do that.

 

ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ – Joey Bada$$

Joey Bada$$ is another guy on the come-up. A young man who is navigating the Hip-Hop journey in some style. He has grafted considerably to the place that he stands at now and all his experiences have birthed an album that far exceeded my expectations. Suggestive from the name, an overt reference to Ice Cube’s first solo album AmeriKKKa’s Most Alll Amerikkkan Badass.pngWanted, his latest project ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is a very politically fuelled body of work, addressing issues like social mobility, racial tensions and the whole political sphere in general through Joey’s storytelling rhymes. It is an album that encapsulates the ideas and feelings of being a young black man in America and I feel like he captured that especially sublimely with the visuals for “TEMPTATION” and “LAND OF THE FREE” Sonically, it leans towards Hip-Hop in a classic sort of way; “RING THE ALARM has a sort of dark feel to it, with raw, gritty rap style synonymous with the likes of Wu-Tang Clan or Ruff Ryders. He also does so on my favourite of the album “LEGENDARY” featuring Rap phenom J. Cole. The re-work of Andile Yenana’s “Thembisa (The People)” had me from the drop. Shout out the GOAT Statik Selektah. Not only does Joey tell his narrative but also the narrative of others and that’s why the album is so powerful. There is a clear vision and message being sent here. An expert job in bringing a new lease of life into ‘Conscious Rap’.

 

Everybody – Logic

Who knew an album so simply titled could be so complex. On one front, a lot of it did come across as apologetic. He’s ‘sad and sorry’ to ‘be white’ and is resentful of his MIXED heritage, especially when taking into consideration the current state of racial politics in America.  One may feel like he over-compensates with his approach to Black empowerment at times even though his intentions are pure with it.1a2c364a06d2844fd9e294ee0ea798ff.1000x1000x1
But in spite of all that, it a nod to the Human Condition, which runs parallel with the most intimate parts of his biography. It is an album of consciousness and edification.  There are some real gems on this album like the beautifully orchestrated, Grammy nominated “1-800-273-8255” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid which touches on the sensitive matter of suicide, “Killing Spree” featuring Ansel Elgort which touches on the negative aspects of social media & new age technology, and the soul-uplifting & quirky “Black SpiderMan” with Damian Lemar Hudson which is a celebration of diversity and acceptance. The skits/storyline running through the album weaves in with the overarching theme and all ties together by the end of the final track; reminding the listeners to live, love and enjoy, because no matter who you are – everybody is born equal – eloquently put across by the incomparable Neil Degrasse Tyson and symbolised once again by the title to the album, Everybody.

 

Common Sense – J Hus

J Hus Is The Sound Of Diaspora’s Boomerang.

His debut serves as a unique coming-of-age story, one that should resonate with young people domestically and beyond. The nuances in this project, whether small or large, play key parts. The title track “Common Sense” doubles as the intro track. The way the song fades in like a crescendo is such a brilliant way to start the album. The live J_HUS_COMMON_SENSE_HUE_1_1__ja9y9i.pnginstrumentation also adds to making this a powerful into – The Compozers are to thank for that. The drums, the keys, the bass, the keytar, the trumpet… with every instrument you can feel the passion oozing through.
He pays his homage in this album as he blends the different sounds of his vibrant London hometown and upbringing – UK Rap, Afro-Bashment, Garage etc. There may not be skits or a inherent and obvious storyline running through the album but the theme of the project is still obvious to me. J Hus is back and this is his ego-filled statement of intent to let you know and feel that he is THE MAN. Lyrics matched with bold production; understand his level of bravado. The elastic bounce of “Bouff Daddy”, the grime menacing “Clartin” or maybe you’d prefer the reflective yet unmatched party vibe “Spirit“.
Take your pick, J Hus makes GOOD music. With him and his trusted producer and brother JAE5, there is a bond that is deeper than rap. The understanding they have is real and has cultivated one of the best urban offerings of the year. It’s not by chance. If a Mercury Prize nomination doesn’t turn your head and make you pay attention then I honestly don’t know what will.

 

The Other Side – The Walls Group

I am a stickler for good singing (which you’d be surprised doesn’t exist too much these days and The Walls Group truly personify that to the nth degree.
The greatest thing take away from the Gospel quartet’s junior album is that it is mature yet youthful. While that seems to be a juxtaposition, the essence is that this latest project is a much more mature take from their 2014 effort Fast Forward where they were younger, less experimental and took heed more to the wisdom and musical direction of mentor Kirk Franklin yet still has their signature ‘Walls Sauce‘. They have come a long way since then and the album is a now reflection of who they are as artists and as lovers of music.The-Walls-Group-The-Other-Side-album-cover_sized-1024x1024
What I love about this album is that it has genuinely has something for everyone. It navigates through classic and modern without it feeling like a ‘mash up’. It goes from Country, Pop Rock to Contemporary Worship and others but as varied as it is, they make it work. My favourites are the New Jack Swing anthem “Don’t Cha Know” and R&B/Rap vibe “Mercy” which I had on repeat for the longest time. Plus their upbeat leading single “My Life” has been a staple in my Gym Playlist and carries the age old message that people seem to forget – just let me be me, let me be great. Thanks be primarily to Eric Dawkins and Warryn Campbell who were key to the project. It is a tight body of work that allows the group to fully flex their God given vocal talent while be unique, faith-filled and expressive.

 

Part 2 to follow….

Album haul? Losing My Religion, You’re a Man Now Boy and more.

Recently I went on a shopping spree. For music. I decided that I was able to spend a little and treat myself for managing my finances well and don’t regret it because they were quality purchases. I don’t buy music unless I have previewed the release so I know and believe in the quality of music. Here’s a break-down of some of what I decided to buy and I’ll try convince you that it’s worth buying too.

LED EP – Kierra Sheard

The “Princess of Gospel’s” follow-up project to her successful Graceland album is exactly that. A continuation of the new musical direction she’s following, a pop/rock concept with modern R&B nuances. With the right mix and appeal, it is keepi46170-ledng her artistry on-point and adding to her versatility as an artist. In my opinion, there are a few quality songs that I imagine in my head have the right flavour to have commercial success, ‘LED’ and ‘Real Friend’ are some of my personal favourites. I would go right ahead and blast those songs while cruising in my car (once I get one) or play while enjoying a workout. Up-tempo, Up-beat and Uplifting to the soul. Definitely a refreshing sound to the majestic, instrument-laden, powerhouse sound of contemporary Gospel right now but at the same time, she hasn’t abandoned her foundation. A worthwhile, inexpensive buy.

You’re a Man Now, Boy – Raleigh Ritchie

With acting credits in Adulthood and Game of Thrones, Ritchie’s first full length offering to the world You’re a Man Now, Boy is a significant contribution to repertoire of the new age, quality British music that has the identity to compete with the very best. A British man, who sings/raps British with songs that are contextually British, what more can you ask for? His unique vocals go hand in hand with the experimental, alternative R&B sound the album has, with a good mix of radio hits, club tracks, commercial singles, festival favourites and ballads. My stand-out track has to ‘Keep It Simple’ with Grime heavyweight Stormzy and is the only song with a feature on the entire 18-track album. I compare Raleigh Ritchie’s artistry as being the lovechild of early Kanye and Coldplay. With a real eclectic group working on the production, I believe there is something for everyone on this album in the sense that if people genuinely give this album a chance, they would be vibing along to it at the end.

Losing My Religion – Kirk Franklin

The figurehead for modern Gospel, Kirk Franklin’s latest, Losing My Religion is his first project in four years. Fans were greatly anticipating, especially with the almost spontaneous release of the soul-stirring lead single ‘Wanna Be Happy?’ and they were not disappointed. I only had to listen to it through once to be convinced that it is Grammy worthy. The album sonically and content-wise takes you on a journey. It addresses themes of facing and overcoming adversity, redemption & honesty while encapsulating the authentic realities of many people in America and the whole world. My favourite song has to be ‘When’ which features two of arguably the best living vocalists in existence, Kim Burrell and Lalah Hathaway. Anyone who appreciates vocals, will love this one. Production-wise, the album embodies a whole manner of instruments and sounds which work together pleasantly for the listeners enjoyment. Relevant yet an ode to Kirk Franklin as a musician and his legacy.

Charlene – Tweet

It has been more than 10 years since Tweet last released an album but it’s been worth the wait. “Gorgeous” were my first impressions of her new album Charlene (which is her first name) as a true homage to real R&B flows throughout its entirety. Famed for her international hit ‘Oops (Oh My)’ featuring good friend Missy Elliot back in 2002, Tweet’s https://i0.wp.com/static.spin.com/files/2016/02/tweet-charlene-new-album-missy-elliott-somebody-else-will-compressed.jpegartistry has come a long way since then. Themes of Love, Intimacy and overcoming adversity is passionately paired with the sounds of guitars and pianos, the foundation of good R&B and Soul. Missy Elliot happens to feature on what is my favourite song on the album ‘Somebody Else Will’ produced by none other than Timbaland himself; R&B arrangements with a Hip-Hop beat equaling another Timbaland classic. Any appreciator of R&B, Soul, vocals or real instruments will appreciate the realness and emotions in every song she wrote and fall in love with this album like I did. Grammy worthy.