What a year 2017 has been for music. We’ve seen the grime scene graduate to adolescence with an ever-growing bank of documentation. Grime MCs were all over the recent election, encouraging young people to vote and be an active force in politics. Michael Dapaah’s Big Shaq shot to fame and ‘Man’s Not Hot’ has been a contender for track of the year on worldwide lists.
Not too long before that, Cardi B was the name on everyone’s lips, drilling the ‘Bodak Yellow’ hook into our subconscious minds and becoming the “first female rapper to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart without the assistance of any other credited artists in nearly 19 years”.
Afrobeats went global in 2017 with the rise of newcomers like Mr Eazi and the likes of WizKid becoming the “first afrobeats artist to headline a sold-out show” at Royal Albert Hall with further international success.
British jazz flourished and made way for a new generation of major players. London saxophinist Nubya Garcia wowed us with her debut solo EP, Nubya’s 5ive Moses Boyd dropped Absolute Zero EP and Zara McFarlane returned with her heartfelt release Arise.
Get stuck into 27 album selections from some of our favourite artists of 2017. We’ve also got a playlist laced with our favourite tracks from each album for your listening pleasure.
At What Cost – Goldlink
DC rapper Goldlink received the international recognition that he deserved when he dropped his debut studio album in March. At What Cost followed on from the two mixtapes Goldlink released a few years prior (And After That, We Didn’t Talk and The God Complex) and does a great job of showcasing Goldlink’s incomparable style: a sound which he has coined “future bounce”.
With collaborations from the likes of Wale, Steve Lacy, Jazmine Sullivan and Kaytranada, At What Cost is super vibrant with rich, funky instrumentals and anthemic lyrics. The beats, partnered with Goldlink’s incredible storytelling, make you want to dance, fall in love and contemplate life over the course of the album.
I’ve got to shout out ‘Crew’, which was arguably one of the best tracks of the year. Did you really live through 2017 if you didn’t sing “she see money all around me, I look like I’m the maaaan” at the top of your lungs at some point? With bars from Shy Glizzy, smooth vocals from Brent Faiyaz and a slick video to go with it, it’s no wonder that ‘Crew’ earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/ Sung Performance.
Faves: ‘Herside Story’, ‘Crew’
By Zainab Swanzy
American Teen – Khalid
2017 has been Khalid’s year. His debut – and now certified platinum – album, American Teen, somehow manages to be eclectic, mournful and warm, with synths and dance beats assisting his soulful voice in relaying tales of young love in the modern technological age. Uniquely bridging R&B, soul and pop, Khalid’s first studio album has since been nominated for five Grammys, four Soul Train Music awards, three MTV Music awards and a Teen Choice award. I, for one, cannot wait to see what else this 19-year-old (yep) has in store for us because, right now, his future looks dazzling.
Faves: ‘American Teen’, ‘Let’s Go’
By Paula Akpan
Drunk – Thundercat
They say a drunk mind speaks a sober heart. With Drunk, Thundercat invites you on a frenetic 23-track odyssey into his mind, touching on a diverse range of topics including friend zones, anime and his cat, Tron. Sonic inspiration comes from 70s funk, jazz, psychedelia and hip hop, providing an adaptable body of work suitable for a family barbeque, a 5AM after party or a Monday morning run. Pharrell, Kendrick Lamar, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald and Wiz Khalifa provide vocal duties, with Thundercat’s own smooth falsetto consistently running throughout. An album that transcends genre barriers, this is an essential listen and a body of work I know I’ll still be listening to in 10 years time.
Faves: ‘Jethro’, ‘Show You The Way’
By Jasmine Srih
AZD – ACTRESS
Everyone’s favourite elusive electronic innovator returned this year with fifth studio album, AZD. The album is centred around multifaceted ideas of chrome, referencing afrofuturist hip-hop artist Rammellzee, Carl Jung’s Shadow Aspect, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture, French composer Fauré, 1950s artist James Hampton and Star Wars. Actress has consistently defied definition by realm or genre; sonic inspirations include techno, Chicago house, hip-hop and ambient soundscapes. An artist that has truly carved his own space in forward thinking experimental electronic music, AZD showcases Actress flexing his conceptual genius once again. If you are left wondering what this carefully crafted chrome parallel world sounds like, I urge you to listen to a body of work that I can safely say sounds like nothing else.
Faves: ‘CYN’, ‘VISA’
By Jasmine Srih
Common Sense – J Hus
Nothing sounds more like 2017 than J Hus. A pioneer of the sound dubbed ‘Afro Bashment’, J Hus takes influence from diasporic genres Afrobeats and Bashment, mixed with tinges of Grime and Hip Hop. Following the official release of undeniable song of the year Did You See, anticipation soared for an album we knew would live up to expectation.
Hus’ confidence in his vision and sound is reflected in the low number of features, with MIST, Burna Boy, MoStack and Tiggs Da Author the only external vocals that appear. A dichotomy runs throughout, with lyrics comprising of Hus’ signature humour and slang, alongside serious topics, with allusions to previous illegal activity often masked by sonically euphoric instrumentals. Rounding off 2017 with undoubtedly one of my favourite live moments of this year, the Bouff Daddy’s first London headline show at Brixton Academy, it dawned on me how many anthems this 17-track masterpiece has. An album truly of its time, it’s common sense to listen to J Hus.
Faves: ‘Did You See’, ‘Sweet Cheeks’, ‘Fisherman’ feat. MoStack & MIST,
By Jasmine Srih
Humanz – Gorillaz
If you’re still missing a Plastic Beached hole in your heart look no further. After waiting 7 years, Gorillaz came back with a bang with their new album Humanz. Gorillaz are known for their killer collaborations, whether it’s championing up-and-coming artists or paying homage to some of the greats, you’ll find the best of the best on this album. From RAY BLK to Noel Gallagher, expect to see your faves and discover new talent all on one album.
And if you’re looking for an album with a narrative then Humanz is for you. Gorillaz follows the story of 2D: Noodle, Russell and Murdoc travel on some weird and wonderful adventures. But don’t let the animation fool you, each album has an important message. Their third studio album Plastic Beach was about environmental change and now Humanz is where humanity is heading next. Gorillaz do what they do best and scare us senseless whilst making us want to bust a move.
Faves: ‘Saturnz Bars’ feat. Popcaan, ‘Let Me Out’ feat. Mavis Staples & Pusha T,
By Niellah Arboine
Cost of Living – Downtown Boys
Described as “America’s most exciting punk band” by Rolling Stone, Downtown Boys were catapulted into the limelight in 2015 after their critically acclaimed second LP Full Communism. After signing with Sub Pop Records, many wondered how the Providence, Rhode Island punks would keep their confrontational edge.
The release of Cost of Living this year proved that the band lost none of their bite. Ruiz channels her inner Poly Styrene on songs such as ‘A Wall’ and ‘Clara Rancia’ as she screams with distinct urgency in Spanish and English over a wailing saxophone and chugging guitars. With their larger profile the band opted for a smoother sound than the crunchy, basement feel of Full Communism. ‘Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)’ benefits from this approach as the production allows the band’s pounding drum fills and driving melody to take centre stage.
The band want to tear everything down and start again, evident in their lyrics, which cover issues such as white supremacy, identity, state violence, immigration and Latinx culture. Their ambitions are both optimistic and wildly inspiring. In the age of the entitled white man that we are living through, it seems apt that the soundtrack to the inevitable revolution will be led by a woman of colour addressing issues on her own terms.
Songs: ‘A Wall’, ‘I’m Enough (I Want More)’
By Stephanie Phillips
Strike A Match – SACRED PAWS
Glaswegian duo SACRED PAWS have come a long way from their early beginnings as one of many bands Rachel Aggs (guitar) and Eilidh Rodgers (drums) simultaneously juggled. Once a slither of extra time to focus on the band came their way they took full advantage, recording the blistering indie pop record Strike a Match. The debut album was packed full of highlife-inspired guitar riffs, hysterical horns and dance floor ready songs about relationships, aging and feeling down.
Strike A Match won the Scottish Album of the Year Award, allowing a wider audience to experience the full force of the Glaswegian duo. SACRED PAWS are unashamedly pop, focusing only on bringing the catchiest hooks to the table, filtered through their left of centre post-punk approach to songwriting. ‘Everyday’ is a sing-a-long number that hits the right side of cutesy without feeling overdone. The melancholy of ‘Wet Graffiti’ could easily resonate with anyone stuck in a dead end town who wants to escape. SACRED PAWS are a new breed of pop band who want to make you dance but in their own esoteric way.
Songs: ‘Everyday’, ‘Strike A Match’
By Stephanie Phillips
Gang Signs and Prayer – Stormzy
Days after Gang Signs and Prayer was released, Joseph Patterson (Complex UK editor and co-editor at Trench) called it the Coloring Book of 2017, and at the time nothing made more sense. Stormzy, like Chance, referenced a life that included growing up around gang activity, violence — plus an absent father for the former — but now lives a life that favours retribution and faith expressing in hard bars and singalongs.
Like Chance, his (singing) voice and vulnerability played an essential part in the album. In ‘Blinded By Your Grace Pt.1’, you’re scrambling to find out who the guy with the tentative but soulful vocals is. By ‘Pt. 2’, you’re crying. GSAP showed Stormzy wasn’t afraid to go there, speaking on his closest relationships in ‘100 Bags’, ‘Lay Me Bare’ and ‘Cigarettes and Cush’. Inevitably, his decision to, ahem, lay it bare, is one not every grime artist takes, although it’s almost no album can be successful without.
That’s not to detract for the solid bangers that he delivered. The likes of ‘Mr Skeng’, ‘Cold’, and ‘Return of the Rucksack’, preempted anyone who would accuse him of going too far the other way, complete with loaded verses, memorable hooks and sinister instrumentals.
And then there were eggs, the nuggets of gold for those that know. ‘Velvet’ with Jenny Francis through us back to late nights on Choice FM while ‘Bad Boys’ nodded to the almost mythical character of Carlos from a particular point in the genre’s history.
Faves: ‘Bad Boys’ ft Ghetts & J Hus, ‘Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 2’ feat. MNEK, ‘100 Bags’
By Grace Shutti
4:44 – Jay-Z
When we found out that Jigga’s album was about to drop, the only thing we wanted to know was, did he do it? Did he really cheat on Beyonce? Followed by: is that why Bey stood by as Solange threw down on him in the elevator? Yes and yes (unless you’re one of the conspiracy theorists). But his admissions turned out to be the least interesting thing on 4:44.
Jay-Z has walked through the motions in his last few albums. He talked about business, then some more, and with an occasional name drop of his wife for a flash of pop culture relevance, ten songs are done, without much said.
With only a few months distance, 4:44 feels different. In interviews, he pinpointed his inability to express emotions in the past, using lyrics like: “I can’t see ‘em coming out my eyes / So I gotta make the song cry” to do the work for him. Now, he opens up about the his mother’s sexuality, admits his failings within his marriage and reflects heavily on his previous life as a drug dealer, how it affected the people around him, and his current attitude to life.
He sounds like a grown man dealing with grown man things. Light or dark, his emotions aren’t just reflected in the samples anymore (Nina Simone, Sister Nancy and Hannah Williams to name a few), but also in his honesty.
Faves: ‘4:44’, ‘The Story of O.J’
By Grace Shutti
Process – Sampha
Calling Process long-awaited would be an understatement, especially for those who have been around since the days of the first Sundanza release and Jessie Ware collaborations. It also seems strange to say that Sampha, who has been active since 2010, has collaborated with Drake, Kanye and Solange and remained on playlists when his music was on hold, has only recently performed his first headline tour. But such is the story of Sampha, and had things happened differently, there’s a small chance he might not be the Mercury Prize winner of 2017.
Process is an amalgamation of his glitchy debut, the slow-burn R&B of 2013’s Dual and heartfelt piano ballads that follow in the steps of ‘Indecision’ and ‘Too Much’, but most unfamiliar are the sounds of ‘Blood On Me’ and ‘Kora Sings’. The former is arguably Sampha’s most radio-friendly song to date; with an up-tempo beats and verses that escalate to an exasperated hook, it proves the musician could absolutely execute the traditional chart-topper he so often features on if he wants to. Meanwhile, ‘Kora Sings’ is a dazzling reference to the sound of his west African roots, a sound he only grew to appreciate recently, and one familiar to anyone who has two-stepped to ‘Premier Gaou’.
No matter what he’s singing on, his angelic voice is the glue that knits it all together, and even if we have to wait another four years for it, you know it will be worth it.
Faves: ‘Blood On Me’, ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’, ‘Timmy’s Prayer’
By Grace Shutti
Needle Paw – Nai Palm
Australian quartet Hiatus Kaiyote have made a sure imprint on the future soul scene. The Melbourne-based band turned heads with their debut project Tawk Tomahawk, which brought them to the attention of R&B veterans Erykah Badu and Q-Tip, the latter of whom eventually featured on the extended version ‘Nakamarra’. In the light of critically acclaimed follow up Choose Your Weapon, front woman Nai Palm (aka Naomi Saalfield) stepped out on a solo project of her own: Needle Paw.
The album is in amalgamation of original work, Palm’s own interpretations of iconic songs and reworked Hiatus Kaiyote material. She blends her musicianship with her Jeff Buckley-esque vocal range and employs backing singers to bolster her own power, thus giving us a stripped-back auditory delight. Her debut solo album is bookended with the interludes Wititj (Lightning Snake) Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 by Jason Guwanbal Gurruwiwi which pay homage to the indigenous population of Australia. Nai’s sultry and agile vocals do nothing but justice to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)’ evoking a feeling of comforting nostalgia felt equally in the penultimate track, her original song, Homebody. Entirely acoustic, the album makes for autumnal and intimate listening, but Palm’s aptitude for crafting divine music is able to fill the most vast of spaces, as seen and heard in this version of When The Knife, performed acoustically on the balcony of the Sydney Opera House’s main hall.
Faves: ‘Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)’, Homebody’
By Olamiju Fajemisim
Freudian – Daniel Caesar
Canadian born singer-songwriter closed the summer and open hearts with what is arguably the year’s most romantic album, Freudian. He features some of the finest current vocalists including Syd, Kali Uchis and fellow Ontario native, Charlotte Day Wilson.
Freudian is a candid, auditory ode to romantic love and everything that comes with it. The fact that Daniel Caesar’s shows have become a hotspot for marriage proposals is likely owed to the commercial success of his languid vocals and the subsequent popularity of the angsty visuals that explore his tumultuous passion. Daniel Caesar can end his 2017 riding on the high of two Grammy nominations aged just 22. Caesar was able to encapsulate a refreshing honesty and relatable nature in Freudian not only by collaborating with some of the industry’s best up-and-coming talents, but also by working with wonderful producers such as Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans who can lay claim to every track, but also Canadian music group BadBadNotGood who serve as the band on Get You (feat. Kali Uchis).
The existential ideas considered in closing track ‘Transform’ (feat. Charlotte Day Wilson) are perhaps an etymological explanation for the album’s name. With the exception of the creative input of those who feature, each chord played is a product of Caesar himself as are the words he sings, these lyrics so bold and profound that he successfully actualises a dialogue way beyond his tender years.
Faves: ‘Get You’ feat. Kali Uchis, ‘Transform’ feat. Charlotte Day Wilson
Ctrl – SZA
The blossoming career of singer-songwriter SZA, this year’s most nominated female artist at the Grammys, is a testament to the fact that success will come to you if it’s inevitable. SZA, born Solána Imani Rowe, is the oldest nominee in the Best New Artist category, one of the five awards she’s in contention for, despite having been known professionally since 2012.
Ctrl’s June release demonstrated itself as an album for the everywoman. In her discussion of the concept of a modern relationship, SZA’s voice transcends octaves. She’s sometimes gravelly and soulful, whilst soaring to the limits of her range with impressive control. The wistful and ethereal ‘Doves In The Wind’ feat. Kendrick Lamar is a chilled take on the brand of hip-hop currently dominating the US charts. It’s arguably an anthem of reclamation, with lyrics as frank as lyrics found on ‘Love Galore’ and ‘The Weekend’. Ctrl is a celebration of women and womanhood and a dedication to the nuances surrounding 21st Century digital courtship.
Faves: ‘Doves In The Wind’ feat. Kendrick Lamar, ‘Broken Clocks’
By Olamiju Fajemisim
Cleo – Charlotte Dos Santos
Charlotte Dos Santos found home in Berlin at the end of summer, having closed the chapter on an extended period in New York. She hails from a small town outside of Oslo, daughter to Norwegian and Brazilian parents. Jazz and samba formed the soundtrack to her childhood, clearly forming the shape that would go on to form her musical ability. Dos Santos’ style could be summed up as sultry and divinely feminine. Her stage presence and ability to navigate her instrument with ease add to the cool, collected aura that radiates from her. After a short stint in the UK, Dos Santos relocated across the Atlantic and trained classically at the Berklee College of Music.
‘Watching You’ is wonderfully candid in it’s tone and wording and a testament to the fact that Dos Santos herself said she seeks to empower women with her work. Her music explores womanhood – this is only furthered by her slick visuals, particularly the video for Red Clay, a visual love song about the female form.
Faves: ‘Watching You’, ‘Red Clay’
By Olamiju Fajemisim
DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Each of Kendrick Lamar’s albums to date are evidence of his exponential growth as a musician and his personality. DAMN. brought us some of this year’s best visuals, from the perspective of artistry and commentary. Lamar forgets not to reference the ever backwards-evolving political climate of the United States with his use and placement of black bodies on screen. The proud Compton native utilises his platform and influence as a vehicle to express his own views on the political state of the USA whilst retaining artistic integrity.
Working in tandem with his words, DAMN.’s visual accompaniments consider violence, race, sex and personality in a stunningly thought-provoking way. The harsh loop that drives ‘DNA.’ is perhaps most reflective of the album’s mood and the sentiments of young African-American men, whilst a closer look a the lyrics on the docile ‘YAH.’, allows gives us insight into Kendrick’s vulnerability. DAMN. received a 95/100 score on Metacritic, surpassing many of the rest of 2017’s releases in the dust and cementing the opinion that politically and creatively this is Kendrick Lamar’s most important body of work yet.
Faves: ‘ELEMENT.’, ‘DNA.’
By Olamiju Fajemisim
Migration – Bonobo
Following on from his fifth album, The North Borders, Bonobo has succeeded in producing his most vivid and complete work to date. The down-tempo album is beautifully hypnotic and represents Bonobo’s own personal journey whilst touring, where he developed a strong feeling of displacement and a disconnection from his own identity. The musical influences on Migration, span the globe, with features from the New York-based Moroccan band, Innov Gnawa in ‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’ to India’s ‘Kerala’, which samples Brandy’s hit 90s single, ‘Baby’.
Without even knowing the theme of the album, you can feel the story behind each track, with Bonobo’s signature floaty soundscapes of captivating instrumentals. Opening track, ‘Migration’ sets the tone for the album through its complex drum sequencing, and live piano playing, which slowly builds in tempo to create an atmosphere of movement and urgency. ‘Grains’ has a shift in pace compared to the rest of the tracks with distorted vocal chords, and unnerving percussion, seamlessly setting the ultimate zen vibe.
Bonobo has always been a producer to supersede his own musical boundaries, with an eclectic production style that few can replicate. If you’re yet to hear this album, sit back, grab a solid pair of headphones, and migrate your mind away from the world, which in light of Britain post-Brexit, seems like the perfect scenario.
Faves: ‘Outlier’, ‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’
By Soraya Stanley
Voyager – Moonchild
Moonchild’s third album is an enchanting listen. Soft layers of harp, strings, keys and bass are held together by Amber Navran, whose syrupy soprano vocals ebb and flow with instrumentalists Andris Mattson and Max Bryk.
The record opens with a twinkling intro track that gently seeps into your consciousness, before giving way to ‘Cure’, the album’s lead single on which Navran softly chants, “Love is a cure for heartache”. The lyricism is almost intentionally wanted so as not to distract from the general sublimity of the track as a whole. On ‘6am’, layered vocals, softly plucked harp and drawn-out strings really do evoke a gentle sunrise. From track four onwards however, hi-hats and more prominent bass lines kick in and Voyager becomes a jazz-infused ode to neo-soul, calling to mind artists from Nora Jones to, dare I say it, Erykah Badu.
The newest release does not burn any new ground for the Los Angeles trio. One recognisable sound delicately threads itself throughout both this and their previous albums: Please Rewind and Be Free – all of which are blissful, easy listening. Voyager beckons forward the most sublime of summer days and even amid the slightly misplaced synth-pop moment on ‘Run Away’, Moonchild have created one warmly enveloping whole.
Faves: ‘Cure’, ‘Think Back’
By Alice Kemp-Habib
Weighing of the Heart – Nabihah Iqbal
Nabihah Iqbal’s debut album is markedly different from the music she released under her former moniker, Throwing Shade; a synth-driven electronica akin to the alternative hip-hop spearheaded by artists like M.I.A. Weighing of the Heart, conversely, is brimming with wistful soundscapes, eighties drum machines and pleasing guitar melodies reminiscent of nineties Brit-pop. Combined with her soft, resonant vocals, Iqbal’s sound manages to be both nostalgic and new.
The album opens with a steady instrumental track in which electronic guitar riffs and keys sit comfortably atop Iqbal’s ethereal adlibs. The constant thudding drum machine sets the precedent for an album, which ostensibly explores the humdrum of city life. Interludes like ‘Alone Together’, a gradually building dreamscape, allow space to breath on an already roomy album, whereas ‘Zone 1 to 6000’ layers pulsating synth, speak-singing and a refrain of “It’s always work and never love” to dizzying effect.
From start to finish The Weighing of the Heart offers a protracted snapshot of London now, and is an exciting starting point for an artist who continues to meddle with a wide range of genres and sounds.
Faves: ‘Eden Piece’, ‘Something More’, ‘Saw U Twice’,
By Alice Kemp-Habib
Blkswn – Smino
In March this year, the 26-year-old St. Louis rapper graced us with one of the vibiest projects of the year. With features ranging from Chicago’s finest females Noname, Akenya and Ravyn Lenae to the latest T-Pain remix of single ‘Anita’, Smino’s blkswn showcases him as one of the most refreshing new names of hip-hop. Touching on themes of romance, parties and his life, Smino diversifies his voice across the record with dynamic vocals, ever-changing tempos and warmingly innovative instrumentals. 18 tracks long, the production on the album bubbles and pops, booms and claps, enveloping you in a rich and textural space that you won’t tire of easily.
Faves: ‘Wild Irish Roses’, ‘Anita’, ‘Amphetamine’
By Natty Kasambala
Fin – Syd
The anticipation of Syd’s debut solo project Fin left fans unsure of what to expect. But Syd’s voice at the forefront of such a classic R&B record evolved the Odd Future and The Internet producer into the anti-pop-star we didn’t deserve or know that we needed. More open and unobscured than we’ve ever seen her before, Syd chronicled her insecurities, her fantasies and her mischievous side. At times channelling Aaliyah with her sweet, breathy whisper over distorted Timbaland-esque beats, the record takes you all the way from the club directly into a pool of your own feels. And the best bit of this unexpected gear shift for Syd is that, it’s sure to just be the beginning of a promising journey ahead.
Faves: ‘Know’, ‘Dollar Bills’ feat. Steve Lacy
By Natty Kasambala
Flower Boy – Tyler the Creator
With every record Tyler the Creator releases, we watch him grow and mature into the full-scale visionary he (and some of us) knew he was always going to be. Sitting firmly within his own lane, Tyler constructs and narrates distinct atmospheres in such an engaging way. with an obscenely impressive list of features including Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis, Steve Lacy, Rex Orange County, Lil Wayne, Estelle, Jaden Smith and A$AP Rocky, he delves into worlds of jazz and soul with the signature rough-around-the-edges vocals gracing almost every beat.
Flower Boy is by no means his most controversial work yet – that side of himself appears to have calmed down with age – but the project features some of his best and most coherent work in his career so far.
Faves: ‘Boredom’ feat. Rex Orange County & Anna Of The North, ‘911/ Mr Lonely’ feat. Steve Lacy
By Natty Kasambala
Sonder Son – Brent Faiyaz
The title of this one is pretty self-explanatory – Brent Faiyaz, the delicately sweet voice of Sonder graced us with a solo project this year and we’re not mad about it. The dude is cooler than 10,000 cucumbers sitting in an ice bath in the Atlantic and this album is no different. From gospel interludes to open-heart storytelling, we learned a lot about the 23-year-old singer from Maryland. He sings about being broke in the quest for success, slacking in school and love troubles over sparse beats. His voice literally drizzled over the instrumentation like syrup over pancakes. Give me a second. Just do yourself a favour and listen to it.
Faves: ‘First World Problemz / Nobody Carez’, ‘So Far Gone / Fast Life Bluez’, ‘Needed’
By Natty Kasambala
SATURATION I, II & III – BROCKHAMPTON
Absolute mavericks BROCKHAMPTON have done what every music fan dreams of their favourite artist doing. This year, the American boyband smashed out three phenomenal studio albums. To pick one as a favourite would be a fool’s errand, as each track serves a purpose and excels in its own right.
SATURATION is a suitably rowdy 17-track introduction to the perfectly chaotic collective, with classic menacing hip-hop beats and high-energy lyricism across the board, all the way through to acoustic interludes and bizarre skits.
SATURATION II established them as an inimitable force, delivering another stellar 16-track line up, tackling issues of race, queer identity and relationships to the soundtrack of absolute bops.
SATURATION III landed in our laps earlier this month and already shows signs of promise and growth with a decidedly, busier sound palette and another 15 anthems to unpack until the next project – which despite a brief scare will be materialising in the next year.
Faves: ‘GOLD’ (I), ‘GUMMY’ (II), ‘BOOGIE’ (III)
By Natty Kasambala
Wallflower – Jordan Rakei
Jordan Rakei’s Wallflower does just what it says on the tin. Rakei intricately crafted a beautifully observant and deliberately understated tapestry of sound on this record. Lacing layers of his buttery voice over strings and percussion, he merges worlds of whimsy and deep intimacy so compellingly in his songwriting. The subtle blend of soul, jazz and acoustic by the Australian singer and producer are enough to make your whole body tingle. Let this project wash over you in the blinding winter sun and then shout about it to everyone you know, because God knows it’s too humble to do it for itself.
Faves: ‘Sorceress’, ‘Nerve’, ‘Chemical Coincidence’
By Natty Kasambala
Girlhood Vol. 1 – Girlhood
This 5-track EP introduces us dynamic London duo Girlhood, who fuses organic, jazzy production with neo-soul vocals and charmingly candid tales. Wistfully romantic and reflective, the songs document romance in many forms and travel from the classic sound of ‘Baby Teeth’ to more modern sampling tracks like ‘Together’. Whatever these guys have planned next, we’re bound to be all over if it sounds anything like this.
Faves: ‘Baby Teeth’, ‘Together’
By Natty Kasambala
7 Days / 7 Nights – Krept & Konan
One year after the explosive collab with Abra Cadabra (‘Robbery – Remix’) the Thornton Heath duo returned with a vengeance in October, dropping the highly anticipated, 7 Days, 7 Nights. The mixtape is divided into two segments as per the title. 7 Days is grittier, encapsulating the pair’s signature sound with its rugged, sinister beats and menacing punchlines. The tape kicks off in cunning fashion, with ‘Champions League’ and stand out lyrics like “I won a MOBO once / Got the hang of it, now there’s five in the cabinet.” Fast forward a few tracks and you have ‘Wo, Wo, Wo’ a club favourite with “Elastic band, you came prepared / Don’t get saliva on the chair.”
Man of the moment, J Hus, concludes the first tape, with the banger “Get A Stack” that wouldn’t be ill placed as a summer release, with its catchy chorus, boastful lyrics, and an infectious beat. In contrast, the R&B alternative, 7 Nights, is nothing but sauce, with its smooth, seductive beats, revealing a softer, more personal side to the pair.
Opening track ‘Don’t Lie’, begins a woman asking them “to make a nice song I can listen to at nighttime” which reaffirms the the expectation for this to be something for the ladies. 7 Nights is clearly one for the ladies, with its heavy focus on sex & relationships, a classic ingredient in modern-day R&B tracks. Whatever your mood, both projects aim to deliver something for the full spectrum of Krept & Konan’s fans; “Netflix & Chill” or full hype mode – 7 Days/7 Nights has you covered.
Faves: ‘Get A Stack’ feat. J Hus, ‘Wrongs’ feat. Jhené Aiko
By Soraya Stanley