Our girl Sylvia June brings you recently released albums each week that she thinks you might enjoy. Or not. Whatever...
Things are seemingly getting back to normal in many parts of the country. Or maybe our “normal” is changing forever. Either way, these two new albums are taking us into the future one beat at a time.
Release Date: June 3, 2020
Why I Like It: I’ve been waiting for another album to drop from rappers Killer Mike and El-P for four years and it’s finally here! They weren’t even planning on releasing it until September, but given the current cultural climate, they thankfully said in an intro on their website, “Fuck it, why wait? The world is infested with bullshit so here’s something raw to listen to while you deal with it all.”
The album is shaped around the story of “Yankee and the Brave,” two outlaws who come from different worlds at war with the police, the government, capitalism and sometimes themselves. As the video for their single “Ooh LA LA” depicts, it could definitely be a soundtrack for the revolution. They also brought an amazing variety of artists together to help them create it.
My forays into rap music are relatively limited, but the duo behind Run The Jewels stand out in their field for releasing music with a message. I think that message is even more meaningful now with this album. They are among my favorite word play artists, with a stunning variety of references to catch. For instance, on the track “Ju$t,” El-P raps, “got a Vonnegut punch for your Atlas shrug,” a multi-layered check involving two popular novelists –Kurt Vonnegut’s socialist satire against the right-wing ideology of those who proselytize Ayn Rand’s unhealthy objectivist self-obsession.
P.S. You’re going to laugh when I tell you how I first started getting into RTJ. I wanted to go see Lorde in Lincoln a few years ago, and, in what seems like the most unlikely pairing ever, these guys opened for her. It was easily one of the best shows I have seen in my life.
Top 3 Songs:
- “JU$T” (feat. Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha) — We are slaves to the system,and these dudes make that sonically clear. “Master of these politics, you swear that you got options / Master of opinion ’cause you vote with the white collar / The Thirteenth Amendment says that slavery’s abolished / Look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar”
- “pulling the pin” (feat. Mavis Staples and Josh Homme) — A deeply moving song that reminds us we have everything we need inside of us to fight. “Fuck the political, the mission is spiritual.” And Staples’ chorus, “there’s a grenade in my heart,” is haunting.
- “walking in the snow” (feat. Gangsta Boo) — We are in a time with no space for apathy. This song hits hard and fast, letting those standing by and watching police brutality against others know that they are simply next in line: “All of us serve the same masters, all of us nothin’ but slaves / Never forget in the story of Jesus, the hero was killed by the state.” The song title and chorus seems to refer to the world of whiteness that Black people have to navigate every day.
Honorable Mention: “a few words for the firing squad (radiation)” — Building to bring the album to a climax, with Yankee and the Brave facing the firing squad. “I used to wanna get the chance to show the world I’m smart / Isn’t that dumb? I should’ve focused mostly on the heart / ‘Cause I seen smarter people trample life like it’s an art / So bein’ smart ain’t what it used to be, that’s fuckin’ dark.”
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Why I Like It: M[A]B appeals to me, someone who doesn’t like fitting any mold at all. They describe themselves as “a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.” The Cycle sounds like soul meets jazz meets trip-hop, like if Erykah Badu and Massive Attack had a baby. I love how they capitalize on having three vocalists — LaToya Kent, Kyle Kidd and James Longs. Plus, they have trumpet and trombone players featured prominently outside of drums and guitar, and everything intertwines seamlessly. There’s always something new to hear with each listen.
The Cycle is the Cleveland, Ohio, based collective’s fourth album in as many years. The album was created in a storefront in Cleveland where the band practiced for three years. It seems less focused on sending a strong message than their earlier works, Reckoning, The Garner Poems and Blk Muzak. That said, it’s also by far their longest work with 18 songs, and it’s no less inspiring.
Top 3 Songs:
- “Mist::Missed” — They understand it really is hard to stay motivated when the world is beating you down. You care so much, yet you watch others who should be on your side just run around. This song reminds you that sometimes you just have let your worries mist. “I been dealin’ with a whole lotta shit / Got my mind racin’ over it / Folks don’t care what they say / It’s like they playin’ different games / Chasin’ after hours / While our people are slaughtered.”
- “The Box” — It speaks to me, as someone who lives my life close to the vest. “As if they never knew that your arms are scorecards, tumbling ’round.”
- “Deluze (Solange Say Remix)” — A great soul-influenced tune about being someone’s lover only in the dark. “I’ve been living so careless / Like a shadow against light’s shades / You never, ever claim me / I’ve been wandering in your book of secrets.”
Honorable Mention: “Something JD Said” — I enjoyed the windshield wiper-esque sounds behind the beautiful poem. It reminds me of sitting in the car in the rain at night. It just hits me right.