A closer look at the features from yesterday’s trifecta of album releases.
Twenty four hours have passed and we have submerged ourselves into a pit whose grimy walls have echoed nothing but good hip-hop music. June 18th, 2013 was indeed a splendid day for hip-hop as we got to witness four artists (of which the generation gap is ever so clear) put out albums. While one artist was transitioning, the other was maturing. Simultaneously, another was curating a project that bridged several genres. With Statik Selektah composing his fifth studio album instead of being the main feature, it was clear that Kanye West, J. Cole, and Mac Miller would steal the headlines. As the fiends for new music that we are, we yearn for audible bliss regularly. Well folks, the fix is in.
We are living in an age where borders and boundaries seem to be disappearing, at least in music. There is a clear and rapturous message saying that artists should not try, they should just be. When we heard J. Cole would have no rap features it came as a pleasant surprise. He bravely stepped up to the plate for his sophomore album despite the ricochet of opinions. Kanye West has adopted a shoot first-ask questions later approach. This could backfire at any moment in an album for anyone else, but it seems to be effective for him. We all rush to judge an album prematurely by who is featured that we overlook the strategic methods artists take in order to communicate their album cohesively to us, the listeners. It is important to note that all three artists played the role of architect in constructing their album. Setting in motion the flow of their album and their story being told. Mac Miller enlisted Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt, Action Bronson, ScHoolboy Q, and Jay Electronica as we live and breathe. It seems as if each feature fit perfectly with each beat. Action’s convincing voice over Red Dot Music and Ab-Soul’s enthusiasm on Matches stand out as stellar apogees on this album. Loaded Lux’s outro at the end of Red Dot Music leading up to Gees (obviously not a rap feature) serves as a metaphor of Mac’s development throughout the project.
J. Cole’s production talents were on full display for Born Sinner. He alone provided all the rapping, which had our ears point back like a thoroughbred horse at the starting gates. Self-expression was a focal point for Cole but it does shed a dubious light as to why no one else is rapping on Born Sinner. I am certainly not questioning the album’s value, but why couldn’t have Kendrick gotten a verse? There would have been a number of willing participants for Chaining Day and what about Land of the Snakes? You can tell he worked exhaustively on this project which is one reason this album dives deeply into his audience. Nonetheless, TLC and Miguel complemented J. Cole’s vision for this project. Both songs achieve their goals respectively.
Enter Kanye West, whose goals are ambiguous in this controlled chaos that is Yeezus. Agent Sasco and King Louie own the longest verses besides Ye, which is different but Kanye West is never scared. Chief Keef complements Kanye well like the Ratatat-esque guitar rift in Hold My Liquor. Justin Vernon’s dramatics seemed to be placed with precision on this album. Moreover, Charlie Wilson‘s celestial entrance on Bound 2 boosts the song’s already purified sound. The reggae influence was transparent but no one is complaining about that. It was clever of Kanye to go from Marilyn Manson, Daft Punk, and Kid Cudi to Popcaan, Beenie Man, and Agent Sasco.
Yes, twenty four hours is not enough to fully grasp these three albums in their entirety. However, these artists have provided us with a lot of groundwork. There is something different in the air and that is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as they keep bringing it, we’ll happily accept all the music we can handle.