Hello! We’re back. Following a stressful couple of months of exam revision and essay writing we have returned like a phoenix from the ashes to keep you up to date with all things bright and beautiful in the world of music. So, we thought, what better way to bring you up to speed than to provide you with a quick run down of what we’ve been listening to and what’s been getting us excited since we last spoke to you. So without further adieu we present:
On The Beat’s whistle stop tour of the past 3 months, or: Daft Punk and four reasons to believe that hip hop is still very much alive.
Catchy name right?
Let’s begin with what has been one of the most talked about releases of the year:
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories.
After blazing a trail to number one with the lead single Get Lucky, a slice of flawless, glitzy pop that has been totally unavoidable for the past few months, Daft Punk returned in the middle of May with the release of their fourth studio album. Just like Get Lucky, the album topped charts all over the world achieving gold and platinum status in multiple countries. Random Access Memories was bursting with incredible songs from start to finish; not content to bring another genre defining album of electronic dance music the robots turned to decades past, plundering the back catalogues of those who influenced them and injecting the album with 70s funk vibes and glossy disco sheen. Although somewhat of a departure from their previous releases, with the help of an impressive cast of featured artists, the French House duo turned in a stellar performance with every single track.
Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
A fresh face on the hip hop scene (literally, he only turned 20 in April) Acid Rap, released in April, is the second mixtape from Chance The Rapper to hit the world-wide-web. Combining a lazy, off-beat flow with a raspy delivery, top-drawer wordplay and an incredible selection of beats Chance has dropped probably the hottest mixtape of the year so far and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m still saying that in December. The mixtape is bursting at the seams with experimental, cloudy beats that perfectly complement Chance’s style as he spits about dropping acid, chain smoking and life in Chicago. Kicking off with Good Ass Intro, Chance’s style is a third Andre 3000, a third Lil Wayne and a third Kanye West as he sing-raps in an abrasive tone over a beat that wouldn’t have been out of place on College Dropout. The mixtape is incredibly cohesive, showing every side to his persona, the drug-taking kid, the fun-loving teen and the self-conscious, self-aware and concerned individual. For me it’s when Chance is showcasing the latter that he is truly at his best, tracks like Acid Rain, Chain Smoker and the second part of Pusha Man really stand out for me as the highlights of Acid Rap but there’s still a lot of fun to be had with songs like Cocoa Butter Kisses, Juice and NaNa. I really cannot recommend this mixtape enough, some of the hooks will be left stuck in your head for days on end, guaranteed. Acid Rap is an out and out success and Chance The Rapper is one to look out for. Also, just look at how good that album artwork is.
Ghostface Killah ft. Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons to Die
When ODB said “introducin’ the Ghostface Killahhhhhhh, no one could get iller” on Da Mystery of Chessboxin‘, nobody could have guessed that this was not just a bit of hype for the next MC on the track but was actually a word of prophecy over Ghostface, bestowed upon him by the one and only Big Baby Jesus. Since Enter The Wu-Tang, Ghostface has had the most consistent and the most impressive solo run out of all the Clan members. Whereas most of the Wu-Tang members have at least one solo classic under their belts, Ghostface has plenty. This latest release Twelve Reasons to Die is simply one more to add to the collection. A concept album based on a comic book of the same name, the album follows the story of Tony Starks (one of Ghostface’s aliases), a 1960s italian gangster, as he is tricked and killed by rival gangsters the DeLuca crime family. Following his death Starks’ remains are melted down and pressed into twelve vinyl records but when these records are played Starks is resurrected as Ghostface Killah who goes about claiming his revenge of those who wronged him. The album is about as coherent and cohesive as albums come and Ghostface is on fine form throughout as he spits an interesting and compelling narrative. Though, at this point we’re so used to Ghostface’s incredible story telling abilities to that this doesn’t really come as much of a surprise. As he tells the story of the Ghostface Killah he’s helped out by featured MCs all weighing in as different characters, creating this real theatrical sense to the album. However, all of this would be less impressive were it not for Adrian Younge’s incredible production. Using live instrumentation throughout, Younge’s production is consistently top-drawer the beauty of it really born out of the fact that the album is more of a score for a movie than just a series of beats. The two pair up brilliantly as Ghostface finds a nice groove in and amongst Younge’s instrumentation and together they seem to work so well. We can only hope that this is the start of a long and fruitful partnership between the two.
Wu-Tang Clan – Family Reunion
Sticking with the Wu vibes; after announcing a new album to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Enter The Wu-Tang (due to drop later this year) and a show stopping performance at Coachella in April, it would seem that the cogs are turning once more for the Clan. Family Reunion is more of a stand alone single as opposed to lead single from the new album and is available to download on a ‘name your price’ basis online. Though not all the members are present on the track, the appearance of four of them and the name of the track is enough to give us hope that we’ll get every single member on the upcoming album. Family Reunion itself is a soulful and distinctly Wu release. Produced by RZA, the track samples the Ojay’s incredibly soulful classic that goes by the same name over simple, old-school percussion. The beat creates a real sense of nostalgia and the verses performed on the track only add to this. Masta Killa and Method Man coming with verses about things like how good it is to see the ‘Wu-Tang family under one roof’, ‘love, peace and happiness’ and how long they’ve been in the game. Ghostface’s verse though is the standout, a touching and fitting tribute to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard as the Clan reuinte to commemorate twenty years as the kings of hip hop. All in all a very strong single and just another reason to get seriously, seriously pumped about the possibility of another Wu-Tang banger later in the year.
Kanye West – Yeezus
If his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was Kanye doing grandiose theatre then Yeezus is its antithesis. Sounding like it could well have been produced in a dilapidated warehouse, the album (featuring production from the likes of Daft Punk, RZA and No ID) is full of jarring, industrial and cathartic beats, each striving to be more confrontational and filthy than the last. It’s unapologetic, it’s aggressive and it is a thing of incredible bravado. It’s the beats and the production that first grab your attention on this album, owing more than a little to the beats found across Death Grips‘ discography, they pump wildly and build to enormous climaxes before completely dropping out unannounced to make way for distorted samples or interludes of Kanye screaming and panting. From start to finish the album sounds like the mental breakdown of a hip hop genius recorded for the world to hear. Of course Kanye being Kanye, this is all entirely intentional, Yeezus is designed with careful precision to be divisive and controversial and tracks going by the name of I Am A God (featuring God himself no less) and New Slaves are testament to this fact. West’s lyrics only do more to add to the manic and demented feel of the album. On New Slaves we hear him spitting fire about his views of old racism and new racism, about the issues facing America and their existing attitudes toward people who don’t happen to be caucasian males. Then on the song I’m In It we hear him say things like “eating asian pussy, all I need is sweet and sour sauce”; it’s an album with no clear message, but maybe that’s the point? The album never comes out of top gear and that leaves Kanye in a frenzied and hysterical mood, not entirely sure of exactly what his views on the world are, but certain is that it’s not good and that it needs to change. Yeezus is not an album that you can approach with 50% of your attention, from the moment album opener On Sight kicks in to the moment Bound 2, the albums finale, ends Kanye demands your undivided attention and he’ll be damned if he’s not going to get it. It’s an extraordinary release, as confused as it is bold, it’s audacious and it’s reckless and it makes for fascinating listening. When West released The College Dropout way back in 2004, he pretty much changed the hip hop game and with Yeezus you get the feeling that he may well have done it again.
Joseph Ainscough – @TheJoeSco
Thanks for reading and as always, we want to hear your opinion: how do you agree or disagree? What have been your favourite releases of the year so far? Let us know by getting in touch via Facebook, Twitter or in the comment section below.
Check back soon to see Jack Meredith‘s run down of the past few months!