Because I’ve had the same records on rotation for the past few weeks, I thought it would be cool to share some of my current favorite albums and singles with you; most of them being the recent drops and others from earlier in the year.
I read somewhere that this album was mainly a result of Travis Scott being snubbed at the Grammy Awards following his last project and I can comfortably say that this is his strongest and best work to date.
I have listened to Astroworld everyday since its release and I pick a different favorite song each time. This morning WAKE UP and 5% TINT are at the top of that list and that might have a lot to do with the fact that one plays directly after the other (which he does so well on this album). The attention to detail with the production, the beat switches mid-song, as well as the way in which one song still seamlessly flows into the next is a trip on its own.
The other trip is that the features weren’t listed, so hearing some familiar and favorite voices appear on a song and realizing just how much sense they made for the specific record on which they were featured takes this body of work up a notch.
Guest artists include: Drake, The Weeknd, James Blake, Gunna, Frank Ocean, Kevin Parker, Sheck Wes and Juice WRLD; as well as writing and production credits from the likes of River Tiber, Thundercat, John Mayer, CyHi The Prynce, Mike Dean and more.
“I went on a journey with it, like any record. It took a long time for me to figure out what it was and usually I finish a record and the next week I know exactly what I’m doing next — but this time, it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to say and what kind of music I wanted to make. It was a lot of experimenting and we finally landed on some type of a path”
— Mac Miller (interview with Zane Lowe)
It has recently come to my attention that Mac Miller might be one of my favorite artists. Aside from the fact that I have previously written about him in depth (see below), I seem to have a special attachment to his discography. He has a habit of what is starting to feel like him speaking directly to me, right on schedule at different phases of my life and Swimming is no different.
One thing I appreciate about the way in which he crafts is the very blatant honesty that comes with it.
When The Divine Feminine was released, Mac Miller was loudly in love and evidently had a muse to carry him through the project. This time, we hear him questioning a lot, pondering on life and its meaning and navigating through it as a single man with access to everything; who so often found himself feeling nothing instead. Combining his rapping with singing melodies, Mac takes us through this journey where he opens up about his recent struggles with addiction and uplifts himself as well as the listener throughout. He achieves this on Self Care — declaring that he is treating himself right and later transitioning into Oblivion where he reflects on not knowing what he is doing as he removes himself from his previous reality while still acknowledging that it’s a beautiful place to be in. Ultimately he finds his resolve as the album closes with So It Goes where he wraps up the idea that he has been and is trapped in his head, but affirms that he is still standing.
VanJess (Ivana and Jessica Nwokike) are a Nigerian-American sister R&B/Soul duo. What started as a YouTube channel featuring acoustic covers of songs from the 90s has since propelled the sisters into releasing their debut album Silk Canvas.
It’s like taking the female R&B singers and groups from the 90s and then fusing them with modern-day alternative and electronic touches. It’s a sound that is reminiscent of what Brandy gave us with Full Moon (2002); with the inclusion of upbeat tempos (such as Through Enough feat. GoldLink and Another Lover) that prove perfect for a festival sort of setting and are a testament to their versatility. Whilst paying tribute to their 90s R&B influences, the duo have successfully cultivated a sound of their own.
Harlan & Alondra
The year is 2009 and Pharrell sees a video of fifteen year old Buddy performing, flies him to Miami and signs him. Waiting on his big break following that moment, Buddy continues to rap and improve on his sound. The year is 2018 and he releases his debut album named after a crossroads in Compton, Harlan & Alondra.
As the son of a preacher, Buddy was placed in the church choir and then also took part in theater performances before deciding that rapping would be his thing. After being signed by Pharrell, he spent time experimenting with and trying to arrive at what would become his sound.
Because of his colorful background, Buddy fuses a number of sounds from classic hip hop rhythms to R&B melodies whilst highlighting pressing political and cultural topics. One of my favorite and probably one of his bigger songs on the album is titled Black (feat. A$AP Ferg). Here he brings race to the forefront over a hard beat while emphasizing black Power and black excellence. Hearing this song in relation to the rest of the album, its sound stands out compared to the smoother melody on Shameless (feat. Guapdad 4000) prior to it and Hey Up There (feat. Ty Dolla $ign) following. I’m certain he must be just as glad about the nine years it took for him to grow into the artist he has now become.
Jean Deaux – Back 2 You (here)
Mura Masa & NAO – Complicated (here)
Silk City, GoldLink & Desiigner – Loud (here)
Lani Feli – WCE (here)
Kaytranada – KISS OF LIFE (KAYTRA EDIT) (here)