Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to hip-hop’s Super Tuesday!
Let’s start with J. Cole. After building a serious buzz through mixtapes (what else is new?) the North Carolinian (now that’s new) made a splash with his first official album, Cole World: The Sideline Story. The set surprisingly made a debut at #1 on the charts and continued to sell strongly, even though I thought it was kinda “meh” when compared to his mixtape output. Nevertheless, Cole is part of the new wave of hip-hop purists that includes Kendrick Lamar and extends all the way through Joey Bada$$. His new album, Born Sinner, features a bevy of guest artists (what rap album doesn’t) and based on early buzz, is more solid than his debut. I was on the fence about this one, but I’ll probably end up copping it.
Now, we move on to Mac Miller. The Pittsburgh (shouts to Gonzo and The Packet Man)-area rapper also made a surprise splash on the charts with his debut, Blue Slide Park. I’ll admit to not having paid him very much attention; I kinda figured he was another Asher Roth type. However, he might turn out to be the real deal. He certainly got a who’s who of respected producers to join him on his second album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off. Diplo and the suddenly ubiquitous Pharrell are among the production highlights.
Oh yeah, did we mention Kanye yet? Quite possibly the most polarizing musician in the business right now, Yeezus damn near broke social media when it leaked on Friday. Reactions ranged from “this is awesome” to, of course, “this sucks” with quite a bit of “what was Kanye thinking?” thrown in. Based on the two songs ‘Ye performed on “Saturday Night Live,” it’s safe to say that Yeezus is significantly more experimental than most of today’s hip-hop, and certainly isn’t a traditional “rap” album. Someone on one of the social media networks offered up an interesting comparison to the best work of Stevie Wonder; saying something to the effect of “you won’t be disappointed if you expect Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants and not Innervisions.” Plants, for those who remember, was the highly experimental follow-up to Songs in the Key of Life that bombed upon release. However, time has been kind to it, and Plants is now regarded more as a non-commercial diversion (and not a bad one either) than an out-and-out “has he lost his shit?” kind of album.
Kelly Rowland isn’t hip-hop per se, but Destiny’s Child was one of the biggest of the hip-hop influenced vocal groups that emerged towards the end of the Nineties, and God knows Kelly’s collaborated with damn near every emcee. As likeable and fine as Kelly is, she’s never made an album that’s been…you know, good. That might change with her fourth album, Talk a Good Game. I’m always game to give Kelly another chance, because she’s super talented and doesn’t really get her just due-which I guess is what happens when you’re in Beyonce’s shadow. However, I’d like her to at least once make an album that stands up against the catalogs of both her “big sister” and her “big sister”‘s actual little sister.
Also out this week, new albums by:
Rick Moranis (yes, that Rick Moranis)
Sigur Ros (reviewed here)
and more, which you can find by heading on over to Pause and Play!