Most of my listening time last month was dedicated to determining the ranks of my favorite albums of 2017, but there has still been a few recent releases I wanted to make sure I covered, including the latest installment of BROCKHAMPTON’s Saturation series, the new N.E.R.D. album and the long awaited Travis Scott and Quavo collab. Here’s a round up:
Brockhampton – Saturation III
BROCKHAMPTON’s third release in just over six months fulfills one of the most prolific short periods we have seen from a rap group in recent years. What makes them stand out in comparison to other crews, is that while the band is made up of many talented individuals, the members truly are their best as a collective. They feed off each other’s energy like a bunch of wild animals around a carcass, something that was largely evident when I saw them in concert in Orange County last weekend. Going into this new album, Saturation III, I was expecting more of the same: hyphy beats, weird and chaotic flows, all balanced out by some smooth tracks. My expectations weren’t far off, but I have to give the group credit for coming through with a couple nice switch ups in their aesthetic. They sound more ethereal then ever on tracks like “BLEACH” and “SISTER/NATION”. It will be interesting to see what their next move is and just how creative they can get as they grow older.
Charli XCX – Pop 2
UK singer and songwriter Charli XCX returns with another high profile mixtape titled Pop 2. I don’t enjoy giving negative reviews, but after listening to this project, there isn’t anything positive I have to say about it. It has decent production – certainly more interesting than other pop artists on Charli’s level of popularity – but I just can’t get past the robotic vocals. I get that this tape is trying to be a glitchy and futuristic rendition of pop music, but the melodrama feels half baked and created more by studio tricks rather than genuine artistic expression. I don’t know, maybe in 10 years I will look back and “get it”. “Out of My Head” and “Tears” are the tracks I found most listenable.
N.E.R.D. – No One Ever Really Dies
Did you say N.E.R.D. is back?! Back indeed, with a full length, self-titled album. The Pharrell led trio dropped some of the hottest singles of 2017 within the last couple months of the year, which built up immense anticipation for the first album by the group since 2010. “Lemon”, which features an amazing Rihanna performance is a solidified bop and “Don’t Don’t Do It!” is another eclectically produced banger that turns from slow and rhythmic to completely chaotic, thanks to an awesome set of guitar riffs and a hectic guest spot from Kendrick Lamar. The guest-heavy tracklist, loaded with everybody from Ed Sheeran to Future, steals a lot of the attention, but N.E.R.D.’s signature medley of rock, pop, funk and hip-hop production prevails to create an entertaining listening experience.
Quality Control – Quality Control: Control The Streets Vol. 1
Released as a compilation from various artists on Atlanta hip-hop label Quality Control Music, Control the Streets Vol. 1 is 30 songs worth of material from stars including Migos and Lil Yachty, among many others. This release was made for a two reasons, neither of which was to be a sophisticated work of art. This project a compilation, a vibe and a soundtrack to the millionaire lifestyle of the top dogs in Atlanta rap. Much like the Travis Scott and Quavo collaboration, this project was made to supply the current demand for moody and melodic trap music in the mainstream, but additionally it demonstrates just how dominant some of these artists have become in terms of pop culture relevance. There are many memorable songs, especially “Ice Tray”, “My Dawg” and “Mediterranean”, but I think at the end of the day we are simply an hour and 47 minutes closer to the end of the ongoing trap wave.
Travis Scott & Quavo – Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho
Rap powerhouses Travis Scott and Quavo of Migos are making a big splash with a new collaboration under the alias Huncho Jack. The project, Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho, has been in the works for some time and figures to make a lot of noise on the mainstream level, being that these guys are currently two of the biggest acts out in the rap scene. As one would expect, the music on this album wades in the trendiness of dark, moody trap beats, drenched in auto-tune at maximum capacity. The monotonous sound of this album makes it hard to pick stand out tracks, but “Go” and “How U Feel” stuck with me to an extent. This project is hardly sub par, but why would I listen to this when there’s so many more interesting releases within the same canon of music? I digress – die hard fans should enjoy this album quite a bit, but it uses a recipe we have all heard before.