By: J Chen
Summer vibes and bones to pick.
Kali Uchis – Rush | Por Vida EP, 2015
Anything with Kaytranada’s name on it gets an automatic listen from me– the guy has limitless range and can make a neck snapping jam out of a classic that you wouldn’t even think to sample because you enjoy the original song too much. This Kaytranada production is no different, although it unquestionably belongs to the sultry-voiced up-and-comer, Kali Uchis. Her relocation to Los Angeles has been treating her well apparently, providing co-signs from local legends and the fitting backdrop of palm trees and sunshine to draw inspiration from. That hazy West Coast aura permeates the uptempo “Rush”, as Kali bops through the retro-future soul track with a cadence and drawl reminiscent of Erykah Badu (if Erykah was born in Colombia).
Taylor McFerrin – Early Riser LP | Brainfeeder, 2014
For those of you morning people, Early Riser is a great morning companion and another solid release on the progressive Brainfeeder label. It’s quintessential Brainfeeder, exploring the space that juxtaposes analog with digital, jazz with electronica, and music played with music programmed. That avant garde genre ambiguity gives Taylor license to experiment with subtlety and nuance, from the spacier abstracts of “Post Partum” to the sloppy neo-soul of “Florasia”. Taylor’s influences clearly run deep and he never stretches himself too far on the album, knowing when to reach out for help. Taylor, unlike his Dad (yup, that McFerrin), is not a classically trained musician and plays by ear. He’s in good company throughout, enlisting heavyweights like Robert Glasper on keys and vocalist Nai Palm of Hiatus Kayote to do the heavy lifting where needed. If you’re not a morning person, stop sleeping, grab some coffee, take a listen, and be glad you did.
Selections: Florasia, Invisible/Visible, Already There, Decisions
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly LP | Top Dawg/Aftermath, 2015
For his follow-up to Good Kid M.a.a.d City, Kendrick Lamar delivered an ambitious and even weirder project than I (and most rap fans) anticipated. To Pimp a Butterfly doesn’t fit in with the collections of lay-up bangers that his rap contemporaries have put out so far this year and it’s very clear that Kendrick has little interest in being in the same sentence as his peers. He was not playing around on Control and his choices on this album speak to that, featuring prolific underground beatmakers, avant-garde jazz musicians, slam poetry and more weird Kendrick voices. It’s as musically lush as it is dense lyrically, forward-thinking, but still a thoroughly West Coast record, and a refreshing reprieve from the bottle service rap-alongs in the vicinity of its position on the Billboards. A neat and tidy five sentence blurb in this column won’t do it proper justice but thankfully for all of us, Jon Carmanica at the New York Times nailed it weeks ago.
Selections: King Kunta, Alright, The Blacker the Berry, You Ain’t Gotta Lie