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“Flower Boy” Should Have Won Best Rap Album

Allow me to begin with the obvious: I have nothing but love for K. Dot and I cannot think of…

Allow me to begin with the obvious: I have nothing but love for K. Dot and I cannot think of anyone in mainstream hip-hop who deserves more respect than he does. Overly Dedicated and Section.80 are criminally underrated projects. good kid, M.A.A.D. city is a triumphant work of conceptual art. I do not think it is out of line to declare To Pimp A Butterfly one of the top 20 albums of the last decade. Most recently, DAMN. earned Kendrick Grammy nods for, among other categories, Best Rap Album and Album of the Year. He won the former and, in a sad yet unsurprising turn of events, Bruno Mars took home the latter.

Now, to be clear, I love DAMN. I think it includes some of Kendrick’s most brilliant material to date: “DNA.,” “ELEMENT.,” “FEEL.,” “FEAR.,” “DUCKWORTH.,” and the first two and a half minutes of “XXX.” (I hit skip as soon as I hear Bono’s voice). Unfortunately, I think it also includes some of Kendrick’s weakest material to date, namely “LOYALTY.” featuring Rihanna and “LOVE.” featuring Zacari. Alternatively, the album that I think should have earned the honor of Best Rap Album, Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy, is just about flawless.

The hype for the Odd Future founder’s fifth full-length project began when he dropped arguably his two best singles to date: “Who Dat Boy” featuring A$AP Rocky and “911/Mr. Lonely” featuring Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy. The former is an outlandish banger anchored by a cinematic string section and Tyler’s incredible charisma. The second track rides a funky, soulful instrumental and showcases a vulnerable Tyler as he addresses the extreme loneliness with which he has struggled since achieving superstar fame. From an instrumental perspective, the third Flower Boy single, “Boredom,” is Tyler’s masterpiece. The chugging drums, melancholy keys, and blissful violins that conclude the track put Tyler’s genius on full display. The fourth and final hype track, “I Ain’t Got Time,” is a hand-clapped, throttling solo effort which reminds the listener that Tyler truly operates in his own lane.

 

As much as I love these four singles, the remainder of Flower Boy is far from filler. The opening track, “Foreword,” sets the tone for the album with some of the strongest bars Tyler has dropped in his career: “How many cars can I buy until I run out of drive? / How much drive can I have until I run out of road? / How much road can they pave until I run out of land? / How much land can it be until I run in the ocean?” With guest vocals from Kali Uchis, “See You Again” is a masterfully layered track which features gorgeous harmonies and one of the best rap flows in Tyler’s catalogue. Perhaps the most discussed song in the tracklist, “Garden Shed” is a delicate, confessional ballad on which Tyler solemnly addresses his deepest insecurities.

I could go on and on about all fourteen tracks on Flower Boy, but I think you get the point. It is a revealing and sonically diverse exploration of fame, depression, and identity that demonstrates Tyler, the Creator’s immense talents as a rapper, songwriter, and producer. It is a landmark in both a career and a life, and it is better than DAMN.

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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Joseph Bills – “The Collection”

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#IndieSpotlight: RetroPOP Provides A Worthwhile Slice Of Personal Nostalgia

A lot of curious indie projects have landed across my desk this year, but this week one of most unique…

A lot of curious indie projects have landed across my desk this year, but this week one of most unique made its way to my AirPods. 27-year-old RetroPOP passed me his latest effort, RetroPOP Vol 1 This For Amir — a 19-song serving of nostalgic Hip Hop vibes, wrapped in an endearing subplot of family history.

Curated to sound like it’s either a vintage TV flipping through decades of history or stops for some sort of funky time machine, Retro rips through tons of classic samples. The album intro for example — “Burnell’s Intro ‘92” — which has the baseline of Jade’s “Don’t Walk Away” blended in “T.R.O.Y.” His wordplay too is phenomenally engaging. He sounds like a student of the game, with a flow that doesn’t sound forced to nest itself seamlessly into the vintage vibes.

As an older head, there were some pleasant surprises on the project, such as “NY Undercover ‘94,” a short and sweet story told from the perspective of New York police Detectives J.C. Williams and Eddie Torres — the protagonists of the show New York Undercover — set to the show’s iconic theme song. Then there’s “the story of the prince ‘90,” which sees Retro ripping through the theme song of seminal sitcom Fresh Prince Of Belair to tell the real story of the show that changed Will Smith’s life. He even added a clip from an episode I still can’t watch without crying a little [see below.]

Another cool track was “House Party 90,” which has a New Jack Swing sound as he rips from Kid’s perspective — from the cult-classic film “House Party” — sneaking out of his home to attend Play’s epic party.

Then there are these deeply personal tracks such as the Charles Allen Freestyle ‘60, a song for his “Paw Paw.” During the final checkpoint, in case the listener hadn’t quite caught it yet, we discover that Amir is his nephew. Which makes the chronicling of his family’s story alongside all these walks down the pop-culture that helped shape him, that much more meaningful. Entenched with themes of cultural identity, flanked with check in points — and even including a heartfelt poem — it’s journey that leaves you relishing for an era that’s long gone. Yet you walk away oddly optimistic for the culture going forward based on the creativity of the trip.

Overall, it’s a recommended slice of Hip Hop worth giving your time to, especially if you grew up in the 90s and hold a soft spot for some of the era’s defining moments.

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#IndieSpotlight: Dough the Freshkids’ ‘Black Rome’ Is A Buzzworthy Slice Of Hip Hop Goodness

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by…

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by a heightened sense of knowledge of self and anti-oppressive forces that be. The ironic commercial appeal of empowering groups like Public Enemy or Brand Nubian eventually morphed into the current era where “rap” has become a business move/career choice rather than a voice of the underdog filled with subversive talking points that rival university lectures.

This is what I found so intriguing about the new project Black Rome by Dough the Freshkid — representing Crenshaw, California. The follow up to his free tape Six Shots and released via his independent label Every Penny Count, the 15-song effort is a blend of vibes, ranging from an early millennium G-Unit mixtape structure (see the chorus on “Cookin’”), 90s east coast soundscapes (see “We Rich” with its scratch hook), to deeply reflective contextual content aimed at giving opposing viewpoints to widely accepted “fact.”

 
An example of this is the title track, which focuses on the idea that a false image of “white Jesus” was shaped by artist Leonardo DaVinci. Its execution is reminiscent of similar records, such as “Why Is That” by BDP and “Nature Of The Threat” by Ras Kass. This song could literally be transcribed into an incredibly compelling University level essay.

 
Elsewhere on the record, he traverses themes such as the (historical) political and social-economic climate in the United States (see “God’s Curse” verse two) to gang life in LA. Nothing is ever glorified, and everything comes off as methodically thoughtful. On the track “I See He Blued Up,” he addresses industry Crippin,’ as well as unnecessary killing in the streets. “Man up, out the choppas down and out your hands up,” he raps, pointing to the glorification of needless gun violence.

 
Some of the standouts include the gorgeous instrumental that rides with the top down on “Palm Trees II” featuring Tropic626— which I found myself revisiting quite a few times this week — and the unspoken dopeness of “Still Arlington (1994)” which featured Wee Dogg.

“I never promote crack in my raps, I only promote facts in my raps,” he implores as the project comes to a close with the dramatically honest, autobiographical “Sincerely Me.” Even at its most informative and reflective, Dough manages to make this project an incredibly digestible gem packed with lots of wisdom and great talking points. Worth a spot on your end of year playlist if you’re looking for some undeniable fire that is still creeping under the radar.

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Outside The Box: Discover The Positive World Of Krhazey Whytheycallhimthat

Every once in a while you come across an artist who falls outside the box of industry convention; by that…

Every once in a while you come across an artist who falls outside the box of industry convention; by that I — of course — an artist who doesn’t seem motivated by the basics that have poisoned the soul of the culture. An artist that puts his music first. Brooklyn MC Krhazey Whytheycallhimthat is one of those artists. “A positive change in consciousness has the power to topple barriers almost as easy as a negative change creates them,” he tells AAHH describing his mantra for creating.

If that doesn’t create an immediate sense of urgency for his music, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Off the bat, there is something endearing about his admirable need for not only a purpose but to give back. Early on in his career, he began volunteering his time — and his unique brand of Hip Hop to the 25-year-old Art Start. The program dedicates itself to New York City’s underserved youth, delivering consistent creative workshops inside homeless shelters, alternative to incarceration programs, and partnering youth agencies.

“The program gave me a sense of direction, understanding and a hope for change; real change in myself and my environment,” he says.

 
What I find so cool about his music is the way that it all seems to contrast and compliment itself at the same time. His latest joints are a great example. “Jack Frost” for example has this bouncy ballad behind it, paired with these haunting lyrics that have this almost literal intention of describing this cold-heartedness developed though…well…life. Then there’s “23:5,” which has this almost “Marvin’s Room” feel to it — complete with a call to his ex. But it spirals into this realization that the liquor is a crutch, followed an aggressive assertion of the path before him.

Then the vibe of his latest “Makeda” is a pseudo-love track with hella depth, and again a completely different vibe.

Everything I hear from this kid I like. Even going back to the summer, with his super dope single/video “BTD,” with it’s kind of goofy visual concept.

 
Without being driven by the same old, his music has this certain unspoken originality to it. Even the fact that he rocks an anime-inspired kung-fu headband ends up coming across like DOOM’s mask in a sense. It’s hard not to get into.

And the spirit of giving back, which inspired him to start his own foundation — Young Heroes Undefeated — is an added layer that makes you want to root for him. “We make original comic books for children with special needs and use the profits to send the kids and their families on all expense paid vacations,” he explains of the foundation’s mission.

With a four comic series being released next year — on top of a solo LP and a project from my his Audio Temple — there is a lot to look forward to here. He’ll be launching a kickstarter for his foundation in coming weeks; stay tuned to our Instagram for details on how to support something positive.

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Sonny Digital Drops Off Two New Tracks: “Keep It Real” and “Love My Plug”

Sonny drops “Keep It Real” and “Love My Plug” featuring recurrent collaborator Black Boe.

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