Last Friday, per the usual, a whole slew of new music was released. As with most things, it was a mixed bag, some good and some bad. A few of the releases, however, were able to rise above the rest.
D Smoke – Black Habits
D Smoke, brother to Top Dawg Entertainment musician SIR and winner of the inaugural season of Netflix’s “Rhythm and Flow” dropped the full-length LP “Black Habits”. Focusing on issues facing society today, specifically to the black community, this album is extremely reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly”, to the point of Smoke name dropping my personal favorite track of the album “The Blacker the Berry”. This comparison both helps and hurts Smoke, helping in the vein that Butterfly is the best album of the century, and being at all close to it is amazing, but bad in the way that comparisons are bound to be made. This is not Butterfly level, as the production is rather dull and leaves the listener bored at points. The lyrics are pretty well written, but suffer from Smoke’s constant use of Spanish vocals and repetition of the same ideas. The Spanish is a nice change up at first, but becomes stale after a while, appearing gimmicky. Smoke’s themes of black power and the hypocrisy of the system are well thought out, but again become stale after a while. When he does switch things up, like on the track “Like my Daddy”, the album gets new legs. Sadly, these moments are too far between each other to make much of an impact. The good is obviously still there, as Smoke’s rapping ability is top notch and he can write some clever lines, so I don’t want you to get the impression that this album is in anyway bad. Just know going in it is to Butterfly what Digimon is to Pokémon. It’s good, but it still isn’t Pokémon.
Unlocked – Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats
This album, or EP, is very fun. Clocking in at 17 minutes, the project feels like a nice appetizer for what’s to come. The question turns, then, into what is next? Is anything next? If this is the beginning of a collection, it’s a very strong beginning. Regardless, it has the ability to stand on its own, with my only complaint being its short run time. The beats are very well crafted, reminiscent of rap mastermind MF DOOM, utilizing interesting samples throughout. The atmosphere created feels very heavy and cinematic, allowing the listener to transition from song to song seamlessly. Curry’s verses across the project sound like a stream of consciousness, in the best way. These two factors coupled together make this whole project feel like a massive flex, just two of the genre’s best showing the world how talented they are. If you want a much different vibe than Smoke’s conscious rap. This may be what you’re looking for. Not to say this is brain dead rap, because it very much isn’t. The album is, as previously mentioned, just a good time.
Petals for Armor I – Hayley Williams
My personal favorite of the releases from last Friday, Petals For Armor I is a preview of the full length album which will be releasing later this year. Very much sounding influenced by artists like Bjork, the unique vocal riffs used make this a very interesting listen. Williams, the lead singer of Paramore, is venturing off on her own for the first time in her career. If you enjoy pop music that is a little more out there than the usual stuff, you should give this a listen. Every track here is a winner, with Sudden Desire and Cinnamon standing out a tad.
Aside from these releases, “Run” by Joji and “Experiment on Me”, a Halsey song off of the Birds of Prey soundtrack are two notable songs. Both are rather large ventures for the respective artists, and both show artists flourishing in said venture.
Header photo courtesy of Hayley William’s Facebook page.