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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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This Week’s ‘On The Cusp’ Playlist

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated…

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated by our writer Riley Wallace. For all inquiries and submissions, hit up the playlist’s official Twitter feed.

This week’s cover artist is Chris Allen.

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Mark Steele “It’s Been A Minute” Album Is Almost Here

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change…

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change leading to new beginnings in his life. “I’m at a crossroad right now. I feel this energy of something manifesting,” Steele tells Above Average Hip-Hop. “I’ve never felt this close. It’s such a dynamic too, I still go through everyday struggles just like the next person.” With change appearing in the MC’s life, he is more in tuned with who he is, where he is headed without forgetting where it all started. Durham, North Carolina.

Steele was born and raised in Durham where he grew up fast witnessing a lot. “We’re kind of like a melting pot. We get influenced by everybody because a lot of people come down here for an easier way of living,” Steele notes. “I think I’m a great representation of what Durham is: multilayered.” Steele embraces sounds from New York, Philly, Atlanta, and DMV area. With hip-hop adapting to each new generation, it’s a blessing to hear real lyrics every chance you get. Steele also influenced by hip-hop’s “golden age,” the 90s rap era, where “everything lyrical” is major to him. “I’m fearless with creating records and not really caring what’s popular a lot. I’m bringing lyrics,” notes Steele. “I’m one of those rare people, a trendsetter.”

The MC started rapping in a duo group called Mic & Rep with his friend in high school. During his college years at North Carolina Central University, he met record producer and executive, 9th wonder, who later on becomes his mentor. From that point, his solo career began.

“My music has substance, it’s conceptual.” Whether it’s good or bad I can create some type of art from it, I know that I’m good.”

Best known for his ESPN Sports Center anthem “Greatness,” Steele has been working none stop to become a leader of hip-hop’s new generation. Coming off his Before A Minute mixtape hosted by DJ Wade Banner serves as a prelude to Steele’s forthcoming album It’s Been A Minute. “This is the best thing I ever done in life, I can’t wait to give it to the people,” notes Steele. The rapper doesn’t have to wait much longer, this Friday (Oct.12) we’ll be able to hear his anticipated project where he shows vulnerability and honesty. “A lot of hidden messages in the album. You’re going to have to dissect it a couple of times. It’ll be from how the record was structure, topics, lyrics, and transitions,” he says.

With limited features on the new album, Steele managed to get No Malice. Steele tells me they share mutual producers and it was “the grace of God” to get No Malice on his album. With everything leading up, he’s happy where he is and excited for what’s to come. He shows the definition of hard work and where it can lead you, but importantly how he takes one step at of time.

“Have you ever been so stressed and so blessed in the same breath? That’s exactly where I’m at right now. It’s an interesting period and I’m just enjoying the moment.”

Towards the end of our conversation, Steele shares his last words. “For anyone that’s trying to pursue anything. Doctor, lawyer, artist, etc. The biggest keys: keeping god first, putting in the work, and lastly, don’t give up.”

Mark Steele is also co-headlining his It’s Been a Minute album release concert at Drom in New York City alongside No Malice on Friday, October 12th. Purchase your tickets here: https://goo.gl/BgnXD2

Get familiar with Mark Steele. Check out his latest music video for “Grace of God” featuring No Malice.

 

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Diplomats Announce “Diplomatic Ties” Album Dropping Thanksgiving Day

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most…

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most notably between Jim Jones and Cam’ron) have prevented a proper reunion (outside of a few showsand follow up to 2004’s Diplomatic Immunity 2 LP. After teasing a long-awaited project back in September, it appears the project now has a title and official release date.

As the group’s set at A3C in Atlanta drew to a close, Jim Jones made the announcement fans had been waiting for.

“On Thanksgiving, there will be a Diplomat album dropping,” exclaimed Jim Jones with his arm draped over Freeky Zeeky’s shoulder. “It’s called Diplomatic Ties, and the documentary will be out a week after that.”

“We havin’ some fun,” he added. “We been in the studio … we appreciate all the love.”

Jones first shared the new project three weeks ago, posting a photo an Instagram of the tracklist — which is a strictly Dipset affair, except for a lone feature from XO spitter Belly. A final tracklist and official artwork have yet to be revealed.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bnkxig9Ao7S/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Tentative tracklist for Diplomatic Ties, is below.

1. “Intro” featuring Juelz Santana
2. “Live Forever” featuring Jim Jones and Cam’ron
3. “Sauce Boss” featuring Jim Jones and Juelz Santana
4. “On God” featuring Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Belly
5. “Big Deal” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
6. “Oh Lord” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
7. “Celebrating Life” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
8. “By Any Means” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
9. “Sets Back” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones

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Diplomats Announce “Diplomatic Ties” Album Dropping Thanksgiving Day

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most…

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most notably between Jim Jones and Cam’ron) have prevented a proper reunion (outside of a few showsand follow up to 2004’s Diplomatic Immunity 2 LP. After teasing a long-awaited project back in September, it appears the project now has a title and official release date.

As the group’s set at A3C in Atlanta drew to a close, Jim Jones made the announcement fans had been waiting for.

“On Thanksgiving, there will be a Diplomat album dropping,” exclaimed Jim Jones with his arm draped over Freeky Zeeky’s shoulder. “It’s called Diplomatic Ties, and the documentary will be out a week after that.”

“We havin’ some fun,” he added. “We been in the studio … we appreciate all the love.”

Jones first shared the new project three weeks ago, posting a photo an Instagram of the tracklist — which is a strictly Dipset affair, except for a lone feature from XO spitter Belly. A final tracklist and official artwork have yet to be revealed.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bnkxig9Ao7S/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Tentative tracklist for Diplomatic Ties, is below.

1. “Intro” featuring Juelz Santana
2. “Live Forever” featuring Jim Jones and Cam’ron
3. “Sauce Boss” featuring Jim Jones and Juelz Santana
4. “On God” featuring Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Belly
5. “Big Deal” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
6. “Oh Lord” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
7. “Celebrating Life” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
8. “By Any Means” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
9. “Sets Back” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones

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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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