Friday, June 30, 2017

Deep Cuts: June '17

Welcome to the second installment of Deep Cuts, a new monthly segment highlighting standout tracks that weren't given a spotlight to blossom. All songs listed below have been released in the month of June on albums where they weren't previously released as a single. The only condition I've imposed upon myself is that no artist can have more than one song. 

Big Boi - Follow Deez
Boomiverse | Southern Hip-Hop

As we all know, Boomiverse was a major disappointment. The writing was on the wall, but to see it in true, physical form nearly made me quite ill. It was the worst thing Big Boi had done in his entire 25-year career, and it's not even close. However, there was a glimmer of hope to be found at the album's conclusion, and while 'Follow Deez' itself doesn't feel all that like a Big Boi cut, the honest-to-goodness Southern vibe and harsh antics that present itself is something to applaud. Much of Boomiverse could be compared to Big Boi's off-handed project with the Dungeon Family Got Purp Vol.2, and that can best be seen on 'Follow Deez.' Apart from Killer Mike throughout the record, Curren$y actually receives honors of next best feature with some polished slang, fossilized confidence, and classic Southern flows. Big Boi and Killer Mike make the same contributions which, when added to the production, one that lingers in the shadows while also being loud and declarative, make for one hell of a Southern fried anthem. Especially when compared to the other diluted attempts earlier on the record, like 'In The South' and 'Kill Jill.' 

Sufjan Stevens - Jupiter
Planetarium | Art Pop

There's a lot of notable moments scattered through the expansive 76 minutes of Planetarium, but one in particular, early on, stands atop most. I say most because 'Mercury,' the album's emotional release acting as closer was a single, leaving 'Jupiter' as next best track. There is also 'Earth,' but the lengthy 15-minutes are too incomplete, especially when making the inevitable 'Impossible Soul' comparison, to make the cut. 'Jupiter' is just the right length, with just the right touch of Sufjan's poetics and the group's varied Art Pop dynamics. What starts off loud and thunderous, featuring a calamity of instrumentation sounding off from all perspectives, takes on a far more intergalactic tone by the end. Intergalactic if our space was a dance party that is. These are always my favorite Sufjan moments, from 'Impossible Soul' to 'Vito's Ordination Song' to 'The Man Of Metropolis,' I can't get enough of his theatrical explosions. The ultra-autotuned barrage only works because of how chaotic and excessive the pounding of synths are behind Stevens. It's a grand piece that grabs the listeners attention right away, showcasing just what they're in store for for the rest of Planetarium.

Billy Woods - Superpredator
Known Unknowns | Underground Hip-Hop

Billy Woods' theory on albums has always been the same; release a lot of high-quality content that blends in without any formidable standouts. Known Unknowns, by and large, abided by the same logic. However, the highs presented throughout were better than anything he had done before. Not only where tracks like 'Superpredator,' 'Fall Back,' or 'Strawman' ripe with intangible goodness, they sported variety unlike anything Woods has released thus far. For me, the best track was essentially a toss-up, but for broad range and appeal 'Superpredator' was the way to go. Why? Because the agro-aggression, coarse production, and rabid lyrical content represent the best of Billy Woods' line of thinking. On top of that, 'Superpredator' creates one hell of a statement with some coldcocked one-liners like "lean out the car one eye closed, to wash negroes off the block like a fire hose," to visualize a madman on a killing rampage. It's open, expressive, and wrought with physical torment. Gotta say though, the harmonica pretty much ruins the vibe for me.

Brockhampton - Milk
Saturation | Pop Rap

Brockhampton's Saturation created quite the stir amongst the Hip-Hop's Internet community this past month, and for good reason. While I'm still on the fence with the album's overall quality, the appearance of a new group of talented individuals who understood societies need for a visual aspect meant that Brockhampton was going to excel. They did release six singles in anticipation of Saturation, and yet one of the best works was left to wallow in the album's final moments. On a project typically wishy-washy in content, 'Milk' made a definitive statement on what it's like to lack confidence as an African-American. The poignancy of such a topic, especially in the ultra-macho genre that is Hip-Hop, makes 'Milk's' intent grow even strong. At times, the emotion can become quite cheesy and overdone, but that doesn't deny the chorus its enjoyment. Plus the message of improving yourself for the sake of improving yourself can't go unnoticed. The production, twisted and knotted sounds like a psychedelic trip, which actually reminds me of the final few tracks on Mac Miller's Watching Movies With The Sound Off, namely 'Remember' and 'Youforia.' And being that that was his best work, that's not a bad thing to be associated with.

2 Chainz - Riverdale Rd
Pretty Girls Like Trap Music | Trap

If you told me there would be a Deep Cut coming from 2 Chainz' album this month, I would've scoffed you off and sent you on your way. Not only is that the case, even if 'Riverdale Rd' didn't exist, a handful of other tracks from Pretty Girls Like Trap Music would've made this list as well. 'Saturday Night,' 'Rolls Royce Bitch,' and 'OG Kush Diet' being the main three in contention. However, 'Riverdale Rd' exists, and I'm glad as hell it does. 2017 was sorely lacking in mature Trap, what with the actions and laziness of Migos, Future, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, and more. Truth be told, with a name like Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, my expectations for 2 Chainz' album wasn't much higher. But boy did he pull through, and 'Riverdale Rd' is a great example of that. The beat, produced by Mano and Mike Dean, lingers in the night with sirens constantly blaring into one, uniform sound. Throw some hi-hats, chopped chants, and a filthy bass as some added fluff and you have banger central. Not to mention, 2 Chainz' rapping is on point too, both aggressive and stylish, memorable and catchy. All the right ingredients for a hit to bang in the whip.

Fleet Foxes - Crack Up
Crack-Up | Progressive Folk

Despite lasting for just 55-minutes, the sprawling Crack-Up feels much larger, impactful, and epic. On the flip side though, another positive can be gleamed from its standard duration as any more structural changes, climatic finishes, mood shifts, and instrumental complexities would've resulted in exhausting, overzealous fodder. That's why the grand finale, 'Crack-Up,' is so powerful. It hits right at the peak of that need and want, satisfying your appetite, leaving your belly full, without shoving an extra course down your throat. The slow-moving 'Crack-Up,' like much of the heavier works elsewhere, paces itself with a definite end goal in mind. For the Fleet Foxes, that meant relishing in a nautical eulogy that sent Progressive Folk over the precipice. Strong, clamping militaristic drums force every instrument in line, apart from the horns which stray off into the sunset on their own, as Robin Pecknold does the same. His unsure resolution at the tail-end of 'Crack-Up,' with just those dying trumpets in tow, make for a resounding finale that fails to neglect any aspect of musical approach.

Vince Staples - Yeah Right
Big Fish Theory | Hip House

Vince Staples' Big Fish Theory is garnering a lot of buzz, and rightfully so. It's conflicting, an album that's purposely divisive in sound and approach. Never before, as far as I'm aware, has West Coast Hip-Hop been so heavily, violently, and flashily infused with the Electronic scene's dance floor. Released by someone engrained in the street life, Big Fish Theory is a triumph of needed advancement. And the crowning jewel of that, as most people unanimously agree upon, is 'Yeah Right.' Gathering a small army of likeminded individuals with him, Vince Staples flaunts his superiority in a way so that none (apart from Kendrick Lamar) can compete. The production, handled by Flume and SOPHIE, is so unusual, jarring, and raucous that any tempered heads flustered enough to give it a go will come up flat. For evidence? Just look past Vince and Kendrick's verses to analyze the beat, and just how deconstructed it really is. From afar, it's not even Hip-Hop. Nothing, apart from the all-around repetitive chorus, abides by a preconceived formula. There's even a solid ten seconds in Lamar's verse where there is not a single sound. Even the instrumental itself is 90% drums and bass, making 'Yeah Right' one of the more creatively ambiguous bangers in a long, long time.

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