Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here has earned notice for its decidedly space-y and vaporous tones, the result of a collaboration with Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly, Jeremy “SadPony” Raisen and his brother Jeremiah (best known for work with Lizzo and Yves Tumor), and bassist Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Yachty aims for Gen-Z psychedelic fervor: think Travis Scott, Tame Impala, and Swae Lee’s Swaecation half of Rae Sremmurd’s SR3MM. On “The Black Seminole,” Diana Gordon squalls as if mimicking Clare Torry in Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.” For “I’ve Officially Lost Vision,” Yachty harmonizes, “I did way too much drugs, I’ve been swimming in space.” Texturally, Let’s Start Here is ear candy. Who doesn’t love laconic, shoegaze-y guitars? But it also seems banal. Given groundwork laid by similar explorers such as Andre 3000 and Kid Cudi, Yachty doesn’t commit much of himself. The predominant theme in this Urban Outfitters-bound soundtrack is molly-tinged dream-pop euphoria and coy sentiments like, “Meanwhile/You’re done/Had a little too much fun/I cannot stop touching you” on “We Saw the Sun.” Early praise for Let’s Start Here from industry mandarins such as Questlove and Apple Music’s Ebro Darden may have prompted backlash from a segment of rap fandom that objects to any whiff of maximalist stench. But give Yachty credit: He knows how to assemble and sequence an hour of shambolic melodic charms, even if his dusted symphony feels more like a wispy breeze than a desert storm. Guest vocalists include Justine Skye, Fousheé, and Daniel Caesar. Other producers include Jam City and Magdalene Bay. Tory Lanez’s name is in the credits for “Paint the Sky.” Do with that information what you will. Quality Control/Motown Records.
In an L.A. Times interview with Oliver Wang, Thes One described former group People Under the Stairs as defined by their “outsider-ness.” He and high-school friend Double K, who passed away in 2021, made music informed by a community of rare breaks, and that sense of not being the “cool kids” in L.A.’s turn-of-the-Aughts indie-rap scene inspired bristling, ornery raps, adding tension to the sunshine melodies. Yet time heals old grievances, and Farewell, My Friend, a tribute to Double K, is unabashedly soft and yearning. The filtered jazz-funk loop on “Young Mike and Chris Floating Free” and the disco breeze of “Mike and Chris Leave for Their First Tour” are rendered in a nostalgic glow for those halcyon years. Musically, they’re a reminder of how crucial Thes One’s sound has been to the “chill hop” aesthetic, and why he deserves to be mentioned with more celebrated beat makers like Fat Jon and Nujabes. Sequenced like a tone poem, Farewell, My Friend is nevertheless familiar territory for Thes; even as he put out PUTS albums, he also issued instrumental projects like 2007’s Lifestyle Marketing. Double K’s edgy yet good-natured thug-isms are missed. The album includes contributions from keyboardist Kat010 and bassist Headnodic, both formerly with Bay Area group Crown City Rockers; drummer Paul Caruso, and guitarist Saint Ezekiel. Their musicianship take center stage on the second half of the album, particularly “The Bell Tolls for People Under the Stairs” and “Survivor Syndrome.” Thes One released Farewell, My Friend on his label, Piecelock 70.
Oddisee’s first album in three years find him deepening his skill as an arranger. His past experiments with live instrumentation on albums like 2017’s The Iceberg often felt stilted and monochromatic. But he develops a warm, pleasant sensibility through tracks like “Already Knew,” “Hard to Tell,” and the deep house grooves of “Try Again,” although some of the cuts also suffer from honeyed sung choruses that are too sugary. He mostly raps about his neuroses, and his distinctively gruff voice masks his no-frills approach to lyric writing. On “People Watching,” he calls himself an “introvert” who “became an entertainer as to hide in plain sight. The guests include Bilal and Freeway; “Choices” finds him in a cipher with Phonte and Kay Young, with singer Bemyfiasco on the hook. Toine Johnson delivers a memorable guest rap on “Bartenders.” The final track, “Race,” closes with a stirring guitar solo. Modern rap needs more guitar solos. To What End is the second release Oddisee has dropped on his own Outer Note Label; the first was 2020’s Odd Cure EP, which took stock of the ongoing COVID pandemic.
As a homage inspired by the FX series Snowfall and the character Franklin Saint, The Mind of a Saint kinda works. Skyzoo has a fussy style that leads him to crowd his beats with stanzas. “The revolution wasn’t televised, but it was spoken word/And I heard every part of it,” he raps on “Panthers & Powder,” one of the album’s stronger tracks. He’s a charismatic voice, even if one wishes he found ways to let the music breathe a bit more. The Other Guys, a D.C. production duo best known for their work with Lessondary crew like Von Pea and Rob Cave, pairs Skyzoo with the brightest melancholia this side of Apollo Brown. They set the mood at 3 p.m. on Saturday, but the subject matter seems to require more ominous tones. Lyrically, The Mind of a Saint stays in grind mode, save for the closing tracks, when Skyzoo aka Saint tries to reckon with the damage his drug dealing has caused. It closes with an ill-timed suite of 80s “Just Say No” arcana. One can’t help but compare it to American Gangster, a 2007 album where Jay-Z conjured heartlessness with ease. First Generation Rich/HIPNOTT.
Wayne Garland and Charlie Chucks’ parody of Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” is largely notable for Jigsaw Inc.’s monster boogie-funk groove.
The Treacherous Three’s single finds Clifton “Jiggs” Chase’s Jigsaw crew turning the Pointer Sisters’ 70s chestnut into an electro groove.
With Sugar Hill-style raps from soul singer Shelly Richard, this may be the first rap record to emerge from New Orleans.
This single finds Master Don and Frank Heller capitalizing on the first wave of video arcade madness with an impressive vocoder hook.
Today, Masterdon Committee is best known for a chant that Master P later made famous with “Make ‘ Em Say Uhh.”
As the “queen” of Sugar Hill Records, Sylvia’s sense of musicality makes this disco-fried parody of Mel Brooks superior to the original.
“We Want to Get Down” is a product of Queens artist Glenn “Sweety G” Toby’s alliance with famed Harlem promoters Mike & Dave.
Before he earned fame for coining the phrase “New Jack Swing,” Barry Michael Cooper made this entry in the Smurf hip-hop canon.