Music is stuck in an era where the art of appreciation has been traded for the fickleness of consumption. We are quick to rate projects and create a nest of mixed reviews. Forget the critics, here are 2 albums that deserve another listen before 2018 ends
With the flux of streaming comes the antics of shuffling. We skip from one song to another, one project to the next, one headline to the latest. Artists do not have the luxury to let their craft suffice. To stay ahead in the industry, every release is a crafted calculation of numbers, concurrences, and dates. Even the most creative marketing, the shock-value of experimental sound, and the brand of a pretty-face aren’t enough to tilt the balance of validation. Unless validation is not what one needs? Ask A$AP Rocky.
ASAP ROCKY’S TESTING DESERVED MORE!
The rapper’s latest album “Testing” is just that: a test. It didn’t get the chance to be rated as it deserved. In the midst of the Drake vs Pusha T beef, it seems that the project fell through the cracks of mainstream frenzy. From the peculiar sound and the unexpected features – A$AP Rocky deserved more.
“Testing” is an eclectic tracklist of 15 songs. The single “ASAP Forever” sets the tone for the album – or not quite. None of the songs are the same: sonically, lyrically, or collaboratively. What “ASAP Forever” does is reaffirm Rocky’s versatility. On a Moby sample, the rapper takes the road of the egocentric tastemaker “Gang, gang, them boys not flexin’ the same – I’m done with adjusting’ to fame, pull up on your set, leave a stain”, as T.I and Kid Cudi grace the remix.
If the trio Moby, T.I, and Kid Cudi is unexpected, the features throughout the album are even more surprising. FKA Twigs enchanted voice balances the bouncy rap on “F**k Sleep”. Diddy drops some Diddy-like ad-libs on “Tony Tone” while cocky Rocky reminds us of who is he. A recorded jail telephone call serves as a Kodak Black feature. On “Brotha Man”, a nonchalant Rocky’s distorted voice is seconded by a singing French Montana, Snoop Dogg vocals and a Trump dissing Frank Ocean – weird. But the weirdest thing is that it actually works. Contrary to what the general consensus may be – it works – beautifully at that.
Rocky actually talks a bunch in this album. From his childhood memories, his dreams of fame, his struggle with stardom, his relationships, and other mishaps.“Testing” is not the type of project that you dance to the club to. It is not the usual radio tracks or the heavy-lyrical raps. The album can’t be put in a box – it doesn’t sound like anything else because of it a melting-pot of genres, influences, samples. If it’s a test, Rocky passed it in my book. It’s different – and in the era of a generic watered-down trap and the crafted label hits, different is what we need.
“Testing”, like the name suggests, is more experimental, more audacious. Maybe we don’t quite get it but isn’t that the concept of it all? Who said that we have to put a label on every project? But maybe what Rocky wants from us is to stop expecting anything?
JORJA SMITH AND THE “ LOST & FOUND” HYPE
A rising star in the U.K urban scene, Drake’s “More Life” introduced Jorja Smith to the world. Her enchanted voice and her deep tones, seduced the listeners and became a new sensation. The young singer, beyond her stunning looks, is an undeniable talent, and maybe that’s the issue. The hype around her persona created a wave of expectations awaiting her first album. “ Lost & Found “ translates of Smith’s talent, not experience – talent. It is a freshman album: beautiful, authentic but still trying, and that’s okay.
How to make a love song without talking about love? Ask Jorja Smith. The 12 tracks album is full of songs that will speak to your heart, yet without mentioning the traditional jazz/r&b love mishap. Smith sings about life, so she sings about love. She paints a picture of the world with her voice, from the opportunity gaps between rich and poor on “Lifeboat”, to the melancholic tunes about police brutality on “Blue LIghts” And even when she talks about love, she does in a way that speaks to all. She talks about the heart, rather than the cliche story. “The One” is about the many exes while “Teenage Fantasy” is about the self, and the others.
Smith does not follow the traditional route, and somewhere in “Lost & Found” something didn’t resonate with critics. Maybe the hype had to do with it. Smith’s talent made people forget that she was very new and very young. Did we expect too much from a freshman album? Maybe the issue is us- the audience.
“Lost & Found” is a great project. And no it’s no modern day Amy Winehouse breakout joint – it’s a Jorja Smith candid album. And that’s okay. We’ll replay it.