The ever-dramatic race for the White House was more controversial than ever this year – and we all know how it ended now. But the arrival of the 2016 US Presidential Election was also the chief reason behind Chicago rapper Common releasing his eleventh studio album, Black America Again. It’s an invigorating record for the turbulent times that America, and the world, are facing. Continue reading
A Tribe Called Quest are one of the pillars of 1990s hip hop, with hits such as ‘Electric Relaxation’, ‘Award Tour’ and, perhaps their biggest crossover, ‘Can I Kick It?’. Work on this album, Quest’s first album in 18 years, and their final, had been underway when member Phife Dawg passed away on March 22, 2016.
This loss shook the world of music, and, understandably, the remaining Quest members – Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White – are still coming to terms with it. However, in Q-Tip’s words, armed with Dawg’s “blueprint of what we had to do”, the Quest members reformed, tapped up old friends, such as Busta Rhymes, as well as the likes of Talib Kweli, André 3000, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak, and have delivered a sublime hip hop buffet. Continue reading
Kendrick Lamar was the man of the moment in 2015. To Pimp a Butterfly was a masterclass of conscious rap addressing the extreme racial discrimination that continues to play out in the US, and beyond. Untitled Unmastered isn’t a follow-up: it’s a collection of polished demos and experiments that are powerful and additive in their own right. Continue reading
Hopelessness is the first album from independent musician Anohni, who was previously known as Antony Hegarty of the pop group Antony and the Johnsons. It’s an album that’s heavily political, but it is also intensely beautiful. Continue reading
Alicia Keys’ sixth album, Here, is an unexpected masterwork. Quite unlike her previous release, Girl on Fire, it is an album infused with rhythm, creativity and purpose not heard since her earliest albums. And it’s also one of this year’s must-hear releases. Continue reading
The confidence that resonates from Jorja Smith quickly leaves you defenceless. She’s an 18-year-old going on 28, singing about urban life, young love and society’s uncomfortable injustices.
Propelled by the response to ‘Blue Lights’, a short tale of a young person walking unwelcome streets, which garnered much acclaim for her at the start of the year, Smith has apparently received plenty of offers from major labels, but has so far declined them all. She prefers do her own thing. The strength of her first EP, Project 11, is good reason for this rising talent to continue being an independent woman. Continue reading
It took them a while, but they made it in the end. And they’ve done good.
Soon at the Latest is the debut album from Fur, an eight-piece hip hop-jazz collective from east London. Similar to the music of BadBadNotGood or El Michels Affair, this an album cramped with verdant instrumentals for late nights and crosstown journeys. It’s cheeky, it’s charming and it’s wildly refreshing. Continue reading
Wild Bunch / Virgin Records, 1991
My abiding memory of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines is a strange one in that it began with reading a confessional article by a girl I have never met. The girl*, then a student at my former Nottingham university, had had a fling with her best mate’s boyfriend, and she was writing about how Blue Lines got her through the inevitable fallout that occurred when her affair was discovered. Continue reading