Lupe Fiasco is one of the few successful conscious rappers in today’s mainstream music. Lupe has gained a reputation for producing music that’s fun, yet intellectual and socially aware, and ‘Murals’ is no exception. The second track on his Tetsuo & Youth ‘Murals’ lives up to its name as it is truly a work of art, starting with the intro where the listener is serenaded by a jazzy songstress and sparse piano accompaniment. The piano and songstress continue throughout and with the addition of a snare and high hat they serve as the only background instrumentals. The simplicity of the production highlights Lupe’s powerful lyrics and his superb tone and rhythm. Rap in its finest is poetry set to a melody and with truly terrific content, ‘Murals’ is an eight minute epic poem.
Kendrick Lamar has steadily built a name for himself as one of the top artists in hip hop today. One could say he’s only feeding the genre more popular music to be sold and played at sporting events, but his latest single ‘Alright’ has brought him to new heights. Starting with an emotional confession of the lowest point of his life, Kendrick then begins the song stating that despite the darkness, with the help of a divine power, he’ll be ‘alright.’ Popular rappers seldom cling to the idea of making it through troubled times but rather enduring them until their demise, so his unique vulnerability is something to be appreciated. The content is honest, uplifting and speaks to the current racial and social unrest we’ve seen recently as well.
A$AP Rocky’s highly anticipated follow up ‘AT. LONG. LAST.’ has shown a new creative, thoughtful production and content style; the popular single ‘LSD’ is one most representative of that change. Musicians have been singing about LSD for decades and A$AP’s attempt is one that can be experienced walking home, folding laundry or taking a coffee break. Despite a controversial theme the song in its essence is beautiful and enchanting. The single is full of abrupt but welcome whimsy and excellently crafted melodies that blend and follow the other seamlessly. The listener is granted a rare glimpse of A$AP’s singing voice, and albeit altered and slowed is an intriguing change. The psychedelic out of body feeling one may experience when indulging in the song’s namesake is one A$AP has imbued in this song, and the question may be asked – if The Beatles or Elton John had access to today’s technology, would their classics be similar?
‘Jungle’ isn’t Drake’s hottest single: it’s one of the last tracks on the album and is decidedly a love song – yet it is one of the best in the genre this year. ‘Jungle’ opens with a jazzy, soulful sample of Gabriel Garzon-Montano’s ‘6 8’ setting the tone for a particularly delicate and gentle lament of lost love Drake fans aren’t new to. This lament however is one that is void of pomp and desperate yet empty apologies, but rather, vulnerable requests for reconciliation. The production includes only the beautifully sampled ‘6 8,’ and simple drum machine beat; both are consistent throughout without fluctuation or change in speed. The simplicity of the production pairs flawlessly with Drake’s unique style of rapping with soothing croons.
Known for producing highly popular, seductively dark, and bluntly sexual music, The Weeknd stuns with this incredibly fun summer jam. Reckless forbidden love and obsession are two themes our singer does not stray from; however, ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ is an exciting homage to the legendary Michael Jackson. This old school dance hit is full of Jackson’s influence from the gorgeously vintage production style, the spare yet striking lyrics and The Weeknd’s vocal composition. ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ is an interesting departure from his typical focus and presents a unique combination of hip hop, pop and indie R&B.
By Chloe Miller-Bess
Chloe is a Bay Area native poet, freelance writer, expert door wreath maker, baker and record collector. She graduated from Dominican University of California with her B.A. in English with a writing emphasis and is still adjusting to a life that doesn’t revolve around MLA format. Follow her on Instagram or on her website.