I must admit I wasn’t expecting to love Common’s new album Nobody’s Smiling (out now) as much as I do. Because as much as I loved Lonnie’s Kanye-era (Be still stands), I grew a little tired by The Dreamer / The Believer and I’ve been a die-hard Common fan since Can I Borrow a Dollar, not to mention I belong to the minority group that considers both Electric Circus and Universal Mind Control among the most underrated albums of his career. Yeah, I said it.
Anyways, turns out Common and No I.D still have mad chemistry because Nobody’s Smiling is fire from top to bottom. The LP’s second single ‘Diamonds’ which features an infectious hook and confident verse from Big Sean is a strong example of the richly produced beats and affected flow that both producer and emcee bring to the table. Welcome back sir.
With just a couple singles under his belt, Spooky Black has already become a divisive, meme-worthy character within the digital music sphere. His much talked about debut video ‘Without You’ was met with cynicism and ridicule in equal measure. While some tastemakers fobbed it off as nothing more than a mockery, others were more defiant and appreciated his oddball approach. Personally I found it difficult to make up my mind. “Alternative R&B” has become such an easy sub-genre for artists with minimal talent to hide behind. Voluminous synths, clouded drums and a shit load of reverb makes for the perfect camouflage for mediocracy – especially amongst singers.
Well Spooky was clearly listening to his critics because he’s just pulled something pretty special out of his do-rag. His new single ‘Reason’ is helmed by The Weeknd’s producer Doc McKinney – considered by many as one of the foremost producers of contemporary R&B – unsurprisingly then that the track is wonderfully crafted and sounds amazing. And to his credit Spooky’s performance is strangely charismatic, albeit far from perfect. Clearly not the most gifted singer, the faulty afflictions in his vocals are unavoidable and at times distracting – but yet still there’s something fascinating here. Is this another case of a producer masking the limitations of a singer or is Spooky Black offering something totally unique? Take a listen…
We Are Shining show up in a corner shop to perform their afrofuturisic new funk-opera ‘Hot Love’ while hypnotic beauty and rising model Adwoa Aboah loses herself on the desolate streets of North-East London. The duo (formally known as The Shining), made up of Morgan Zarate and Acyde, create a cacophony of juxtaposed sounds melding the worlds of fusion-jazz, gospel, and bluesy-electronica into their own warped version of reality. You’ll be singing this all day.
Our beloved home girl Jessie Ware comes through with the second single taken off her forthcoming sophomore album titled ‘Share It All’. The sultry ballad, co-written by Romy Madley-Croft of The xx, sees Ware apply her airy vocals tenderly around a soft bed of padded drums and muted synths. Most excitingly though is that it feels like ‘Share It All’ further shows off Jessie’s growing confidence, her vocals on this record feel more beautiful and poised than ever.
For me at least, Rochelle Jordan is the very definition of R&B futurism. I don’t think any other artist has captured the genre’s avant-garde quite like she and her producer KLSH. And although there are some noteworthy contenders (Tinashe, Jhene Aiko, Teyana Taylor, Tink G), Jordan leads the way each time. In fact it kills me to know how many people missed or slept on her P R E S S U R E album, which stands unquestionably, as one of my favourite R&B albums, period.
Her latest single, following on from ‘Lowkey‘, is ‘Back in the Day’ which once again offers another look into of her flawless delivery. KLSH’s pristine post-Timbaland production thaws exquisitely around Jordan’s honey-cool vocals. I guess I’ve gushed enough – listen below.
P.s Rochelle also features on Cyril Hahn’s new single ‘Slow’ – listen to that here.
Shabazz Palaces produced one of my favourite hip hop album of recent years with 2011′s Black Up; An album that represented what I felt many hip hop albums have lacked – genuine experimentalism and creativity. Following their acclaimed debut album Ishmael Butler (of the legendary Digable Planets) and multi-instrumental genius Tendai Maraire have returned to the fore with their much anticipated sophomore effort titled Lese Majesty. Released next week, the album is available to stream now via NPR, and marks an exciting second chapter in this wonderful duo’s musical exploits.
Tuck in over at NPR now.
The internets have been waiting on this collaborative extended player for some time now, and excuse us for being a couple days late in bringing it to your attention.
When two mutually respectful worlds align to create something new in the way Shlohmo & Jeremih have, it can rarely been seen as a disappointment. In fact it should be celebrated. And regardless of whether you feel this joint project is better or worse than each of their solo offerings, you have to respect their gusto - it’s easy to forget how much of a dirty word “R&B” was just a few years ago, especially in the electronic community. And who knew Jeremih would swing back after that meme-inducing chart topper?!
For the most part No More is a convincing release, it pushes forward with the current understanding of what contemporary R&B is – a genre no longer stagnant in the shadow of its golden era. It is for the most part however carried by Shlohmo’s productions which are wonderfully industrial and appropriately gully. Jeremih’s vocals unfortunately slip key far too often and his Weeknd-esque wailing at times is a little indulgent.
That said there are gems in here, pay particular attention to ‘The End’ and an extended version of ‘Fuck You All The Time’.
Download No More for free here.
Jessie Ware’s new video for ‘Tough Love’ has just arrived. While i’m not entirely sure what exactly is happening here, I do slyly enjoy the 80′s drama it appears to evoke. Not necessarily the video I envisioned for this single but thankfully the track is good enough to sustain it…
Usher teams up with Pharrell once again to deliver yet another showstopper, named this time as ‘She Came to Give It To You’. It’s no ‘U Don’t Have to Call’ – which is a real shame - this is a smoother, more refined and even more MJ-inspired affair (lest we forget ‘U Don’t Have to Call’ was originally penned for the King of Pop). Raymond’s performance once again proves that while others wane, some vocalists only get better and better with time. ‘She Came to Give It to You’ features a solid verse from Nicki Minaj – you know when’s not singing those ridiculous tween hooks, she’s a beast. Listen up.
Lil Silva has shared an emotive new video for his single ‘Mabel’, the title and lead track lifted off his sensational upcoming EP. It’s impossible to forget the magic feeling you had when school (finally) finished for the summer; Six whole weeks to do whatever you wanted, often (in my case, at least) spent aimlessly wondering the city on bikes with friends looking for new adventures. Silva’s new video taps into that exact notion and reminds us all of those wonderful coming of age moments…
Mabel EP is out on August 5 on Good Years.