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EP Review: Diplo – “California”

Admittedly, I’m not much of an EDM guy. Although I can certainly appreciate a dancehall banger in a social environment,…

Admittedly, I’m not much of an EDM guy. Although I can certainly appreciate a dancehall banger in a social environment, and although I can certainly respect the craft, it is not a genre of music I typically consult in my free time. However, when I saw the artists featured on California, I started spinning it immediately.

The seventh extended play in the discography of L.A. (via Philly) DJ and producer Diplo, California is a six-track, nineteen-minute project full of super sticky hooks, moving vocal performances, and, of course, killer production. Despite its brevity, the EP covers a lot of thematic ground: ambition, depression, triumph, and reflection. Now, don’t get me wrong – this project is not overflowing with crazy deep bars or anything. Lil Xan is, after all, Lil Xan. That being said, there is more substance and sentiment to this tracklist than the features may indicate. Let’s get into it.

On “Worry No More,” featuring Lil Yachty and Santigold, Diplo brings a sunny bop of an instrumental anchored by a driving drum beat and bright keys. Believe it or not, as he dreams of a life without anxieties, Lil Boat comes through on the hook with a refined and technically competent singing performance. Elsewhere, Santigold’s high-pitched vocals bring a healthy dose of melodic rap to the track.

 
With a skeletal, atmospheric instrumental of subtle keys and a slapped drum beat, “Suicidal” brings a markedly darker tone to the project. Although the lyrics are somewhat vague, the sound of Desiigner’s auto-tuned vocals is undeniably somber. It feels as if Desiigner has been out of the spotlight for a decade, and it is gratifying to hear him return in such unexpected fashion.

Included on a weekend playlist, I compiled last month, “Look Back” is a dramatic ballad of personal triumph. The immense range of the vocal performance is all the more impressive when one realizes that DRAM is doing it all by himself. Instrumentally, the dense layers of keys, drums, guitars, and strings are gorgeous.

 
Trippie Redd does not miss, man. Whether you enjoy his music or not, you have to admit that the dude is consistent. On “Wish,” the Canton, OH, rapper and singer showcases his softer side over a poppy instrumental that is more soft rock than anything else. As always, he delivers an emotionally stirring performance with a tone of experience that far exceeds his young age.

Lil Xan, Lil Xan, Lil Xan. Honestly, I am not sure what to think of this guy. Like most hip-hop fans, I was not thrilled to hear him join his SoundCloud contemporaries on the unwarranted Tupac hate bandwagon. (Boring music? On what planet?) Regarding Xan’s talents, I have not heard enough to make a sound judgment, and I will give his debut project a spin when it drops next month. In the meantime, I dig “Color Blind” quite a bit. As opposed to the previous two tracks, Diplo outshines his vocal guest here; although I enjoy Xan’s contribution to the track, the production is the clear highlight. I love the breathy, melodic synth passages that bring some vibrancy to the track in between Xan’s characteristically sleepy vocals.

California was a good move for Diplo. There is a ton of crossover appeal here. Although I suppose this project will disappoint hardcore EDM fans, it caught my attention and held it. The hip-hop fans will come for the features. The pop fans will come for the hooks. And the Diplo fans, if nothing else, will come for the “Get it Right” remix (GoldLink drops a good verse, too). As the weather turns warmer, California should age well throughout 2018.

I am an economics student at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. Beyond my studies, I work as a DJ at the university radio station: 91.1 FM WMUA Amherst. Back in July, a good friend of mine launched a political debate website called The Dialectic, where I currently work as a staff writer and the Editor-In-Chief. I love all genres of music - everything from hip-hop to post-rock to hardcore punk. Aspiring writer. Avid reader. Coffee addict.
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Get Familiar With Cautious Clay

Clay opts for deep, cryptic lyricism, which sets him apart from most of his R&B contemporaries.

Imagine waking up in a utopic world. Poverty and world hunger have been completely eradicated. Self-driving cars whiz through pristine streets. Planet Earth has been at peace for more than a decade, and a universal government has been established. A flute and saxophone playing, singer-songwriter and producer, with a voice that sounds like a John Legend, Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean hybrid, is one the most significant artists out. Alas, while we have a ways to go before we achieve world peace (fingers crossed for 2020), said dream artist does exist, and his name is Cautious Clay.

Less than a year ago, the Brooklyn based, Cleveland raised (shout out Cudi again) 24-year-old talent was working as a leasing agent marketer. Now? He’s accumulated more than one million plays on Soundcloud, is being hounded by major labels and has a rapidly expanding fan base that includes Zane Lowe of Beats 1. Clay’s buzz began with the release of his debut single, “Cold War,” back in September 2017, a minimalistic banger highlighting his lush, dynamic lead vocals, some powerful harmonics, and an addictive horn riff.

Clay followed up with an impressive debut project in February of this year; a six-song E.P. entitled Blood Type. The short project opens with swelling harmonies and bouncy tribal drums on the track “Silos,” as Clay switches effortlessly between falsettos and chest vocals. On “Joshua Tree,” Clay explores emotional isolation, explaining plainly, “Cause I, take fear in those who love me, low lighting with a gated entry… I don’t wanna be loved,” over a joyous instrumental, perhaps implying that he is beginning to understand and overcome these struggles. Clay’s voice sounds eerily similar to Cudi’s on track three, the title track, as he dives into subject matter similar to that of the song prior: “To the love of my life, I wish I was stable,” and the clever double entendre, “Yeah I’m type A, but you gotta be right, I must be lost.” On track four, “Juliet + Caesar,” mellow saxophones and some more vocal harmonies steal the show. Track five is Clay’s aforementioned debut single, “Cold War,” in which the singer critiques modern love: “Cause they only swipe right if you fuck for follows, welcome to the days of the broke and shallow.” The closing track, “Elsewhere,” takes on a more somber tone than the rest, featuring emotional acoustic guitars and a downcast yet catchy verse melody.

The Blood Type E.P. is a triumphant first at-bat for the talented multi-instrumentalist. Throughout the project, Clay displays an advanced grasp of vocal harmonics along with a knack for well-polished production that features a healthy mix of both live and electronic instruments. Clay opts for deep, cryptic lyricism, which sets him apart from most of his R&B contemporaries, many of whom settle for oversimplified and cliché lines. Musically, Clay excels on all fronts and has no apparent shortcomings; the sky is the limit for the young talent. Expect a “Cold War” music video soon and until then, enjoy this stripped-back acoustic version of the track.

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‘Rico Love Presents TXS’ “Do Good” [Video]

More than perhaps anyone else this decade, Rico Love has been one of R&B’s go-to-men when it comes to making…

More than perhaps anyone else this decade, Rico Love has been one of R&B’s go-to-men when it comes to making hits. Some of his most prominent plays have come courtesy of his songwriting and producing. Love penned tracks for Beyoncé, Usher, Chris Brown, Kelly Rowland, Trey Songz, Jamie Foxx  – in essence, all of the notable R&B singers since the early 2000’s – and even had a few of them hit number one on the Billboard charts.

Love has racked up a career’s worth of accomplishments, and now, the Grammy award-winning artist is venturing to reach his “ultimate goal” of paving the way for emerging talents through Rico Love Presents series. The first installment features the new visual “Do Good” by Dallas singer, TXS (pronounced “Texas”). The song was written by Rico Love and co-produced by Danja.

'Rico Love Presents TXS' "Do Good" [Video]

“When I found TXS, I literally named her TXS, and I said, ‘You know what? We got to come up with something dope that’s authentic, real and defining.’ I wrote the treatment for the video [and] came up with the visual concepts,” Love said in Vibe Magazine.

“The identity behind that record is me painting a picture of who I believe the artist TXS is. I build on her energy and try to create an ascetic, an ambiance, a scene, a plot. All of those things that makes for an incredible artist. I look at an artist, I study them. And then I say this is how I would interpret them,” he explains. “So, the meaning and intention behind “Do Good” is just the attitude of a woman who says, “I’m sick of going back and forth. You know what, I hope you do good. I’m done, live your life, [just] do good.”

The visual captures the theme of a woman’s breaking point in an unhealthy relationship. It brings into existence how women feel when their mentally done with a guy, but physically still dealing with him. TXS shows purity and being free from what caused her stressed in the video.

Check out TXS’ “Do Good” video below.

 

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Kinship Entertainment Shines Light On Domestic Abuse With Powerful New Mini Movie

Brothers Australia and Michael Hoover — who perform under the monickers Ubiquitous Poet (U.P.) and Eloquent — got into the…

Brothers Australia and Michael Hoover — who perform under the monickers Ubiquitous Poet (U.P.) and Eloquent — got into the game in 1990. To put that into perspective for some younger readers, that same year Brand Nubian dropped their debut All For One, and Ice Cube dropped his first post-NWA solo venture, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted. Hip Hop has, and it goes without saying, changed a lot in the past 28 years. 

So what are two emcees/creatives too old for the new wave and too in love with the culture to quit to do. Well, the duo — collectively known as the Kinship found a unique creative vision, and have spun that focus into a multi-media company spanning animations and comic book. 

“We now write and produce a variety of works [beyond music],” says Australia. “Every bit of work we produce is written or curated in-house.”

The concept of an Out of Place Artifact, an idea realized by American naturalist and cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson, is one that catalyzes the majority of the duo’s current film, music, comic books, and other projects they have under development — though that growth was organic. Inspiration first sparked a song, which became a series of songs, which expanded into a full-fledged movement and mantra. 

The series of songs, which have all been released for a few months now, serve as support for an upcoming film, which is set to drop this Summer. That seems like a lot on one plate, but Kinship never sleeps; they have some new music videos, notable the mini-movie “Love You Like That,” an exciting look at what the pair can create.

 
The visual is — well — a little hard to watch. It follows a woman’s journey through an abusive relationship, which culminates into a surprise ending that you need to see for yourself. The scene where the mother sees her daughters bruised face is heart-wrenching. This is Music with a message and powerful cinematic imagery that helps bolster their company’s ability to produce quality.

“In essence, Kinship Entertainment is now operating as a multi-media company,” Australia notes. “Still owned and operated by me and my brother Michael. Just like in 1990.”

Stay tuned.

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Telescreens Debut Breezy New Single “Poison”

Artists — and founders of MCS Records — Telescreens have finally popped their heads out of the underground with an…

Artists — and founders of MCS Records — Telescreens have finally popped their heads out of the underground with an excellent new single built for a breezy summer evening in your respective downtown metropolis.

“Poison,” with it’s laid back vibe and live chunky southern chords, almost has an Organized Noize feel to it. Specifically, the beat made us think of the Chuck Heat produced “What a Job This Is,” by Devin The Dude featuring Snoop and Andre 3000. Telescreens create a slow-flow sound bed perfectly suited to the emcees: Doov, CyphTwo and Manny P. All three are signed to the Telescreens’ label, so the record almost feels like a coming out party, so to speak.

“Poison is the sound of hip-hop had it been invented on the West Coast in the 60’s amid a blissed-out acid-trip rather than having its origins a decade later on the tougher streets of New York.”

–DAA Mag

Hailing from NYC, the trio consists of Austin Brenner, Jackson Hamm, and Josiah Valerius (hailing from San Francisco, London, and Newark, respectively). Although they are classified as an alternative brand, they are creating a fresh new sound and putting their label another (creative) plateau. The single is an exciting look at what’s to come.

Good music ain’t dead!

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