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Showing posts from December, 2018

Detelj - 'Hope' (Stream)

After what was his most drop-heavy year in recent memory, Detelj ends 2018 in an emotional fashion with Hope, a 3-track EP that features two songs and a chilling testimonial.

While Detelj is no stranger to releasing honest content, he seems to have been tapping deeper into his true self over the course of the last 12 months and this progression inwards has been heavily reflected in his music. With Hope, Detelj claims to be releasing the last of his sad music, promising he'll be "back on his bullshit" next year.

If this really is the last of the "sad" stuff, then Mike is going out swinging.

Hope kicks off with a painfully honest monologue that was recorded in October, around Detelj's 29th birthday. It's clear the CT-based creative has been gaining a greater understanding of the necessity of looking within and sitting with the darkness in order to understand and heal it. Perhaps he spent too many years admiring or ignoring the inner turmoil, trying to use…

Nu Irth - "Paradigm" [prod. Hologram] (Video)

This shit is wild.

I can't think of many artists whose music I've been anticipating quite as much as Nu Irth, who began subtly dropping hints of something new as far back as last year. So, to say today's release is a long time coming would be no stretch.

Regardless, it's been well worth the wait.

The Nu Irth trio - consisting of Jaden Castro, Star BBY and Hologram - liberates our first taste of what's to come in 2019 with the release of "Paradigm", a wavy record that helps to set the foundation of who and what Nu Irth represents.  The eclectic track features illuminated verses from Castro and Star BBY, while Hologram provides the spaced-out instrumentation.

You'll be playing the joint back a couple times to catch all of the layered quips buried beneath both lyricist's otherworldly deliveries. There's a lot going on throughout "Paradigm", but it's all so lovely - truly an immaculate balance of substance and depth coupled with a e…

Irie Lee - "Made Love"

Last night, I found myself on SoundCloud, listening to some new music as I got a little work done. What I've found over the years is that the SoundCloud sessions can be hit or miss - sometimes a gem falls into your lap and sometimes you slip down the rabbit hole of nothingness.

During my listening experience last night, my head was in the clouds and my focus was predominately on a new project I'm working on. In all honesty, the music was on for the background aesthetic; something to vibe to while I worked.

And then a record from Irie Lee started playing.

I can't recall, in recent or long-term memory, a piece of music catching my attention quite as powerfully as Lee's "Jenny" did. It was a whole vibe, his smooth flow radiating with heartfelt emotion, tugging at the strings of my own psyche as Irie told so vividly the story of "Jenny". In an instant, my entire focus was on the song - I sat up and replayed it a handful of times before realizing it wou…

Xavier White - "Distance" [prod. Paul Couture] (Video)

As the weather continues to get colder and cuffing season takes full effect, Xavier White and Paul Couture come together with a little musical offering that's sure to warm up listeners with it's warm, comforting sonic vibes.

"Distance" is a genre-blending record that finds a perfect balance of R&B and pop, thanks to Couture's vibrantly engrossing instrumentation and White's succoring, sultry crooning. The styles of both artists are coupled together beautifully as the song takes listeners on a teasingly seductive journey between playful lusters-turned-lovers.

Directed by Alex Kouvatsos, the "Distance" music video is a captivating viewing experiencing, finding a way to be flashy while remaining simple at it's core. Backed by stimulating, striking lights, White serenades the subject matter of his lyrical content as she provocatively looks on, hearing his words yet paying him little to no direct attention.

"Distance" is available now …

OnCue - "Business Boomin" [prod. Turbz] (Video)

When you've worked as hard and made as many sacrifices as OnCue has over the course of his decade-plus of being in the public spotlight, it's healthy to take a moment to celebrate your successes. And that's exactly what Cuey does throughout "Business Boomin", the celebratory, flex-heavy anthem that will find life on his upcoming I Hate Me Too album.

Despite the boastful gloating and jubilant nature of the new video, fans and critics alike have little choice but to recognize the well-earned self-praise littered throughout "Business Boomin". Backed by juxtaposingly light production from Turbz, OnCue rips the record apart with a fierce, indignant delivery that radiates with a sense of self-love and confidence.

With business finally boomin', OnCue is feeling himself, and rightfully so. He's survived and thrived through all the lows in order to get to this point in his life and career. Fortunately for his fans, with a new record on the way, OnCue is…

Aaron Cohen - "WhoWantWhat" [prod. EKANY] (Video)

With his RED NEW YORK EP on the horizon, Aaron Cohen delivers a fiery, abrasive and high-energy anthem in the form of "WhoWantWhat". Backed by screwy, caustic production that comes courtesy of EKANY, Cohen delivers his verses in a sprint-like manner, taking no time to breath between dropping the sharp, punctual prose.

Throughout the new track, the Seattle-born, NY-based artist shines light on the work and sacrifices he's put into his career and life so far, making it clear that he has no plans to slow down or become complacent regardless of how anyone views him. You can't eat off a blog post, whether the writer is praising you or tearing you down - fortunately, Cohen isn't in this for the accolades.

The visual experience is brought to life by Alex J. Brehm, who captures Cohen mobbing with his people, the emcee emitting a self-aware yet braggadocious aura that has encapsulated Aaron's work as of late.

See Red, Cohen's latest project, is available now on al…

Favorite Albums of 2018

What this is not is a list of the "best" albums of the year. Nobody, myself included, possesses the credentials to decide upon the proper, indisputable criteria that determines a collection of music is not only "better" than another, but the actual "best".

Like anything, music is all about taste and perception. What may be enjoyable to one is considered trash by another, and vice versa.

And that's OK. Like, really OK.

Far too often, we get caught up in our own opinions and begin to hold onto them as though they are facts. What is fact is that each individual is entitled to their opinion - and that opinion is neither right nor wrong; it is simply one's personal opinion.

So, the following is simply my favorite albums of 2018.

In a year that featured an unmatched quantity of quality releases from artists all across the spectrum of underground to mainstream, these are the projects I found myself most frequently returning to. They are not listed in or…

Natalie Green - "ABBE"

After releasing his debut EP, Natalie Green Is My Lover, in 2017, Natalie Green has been dedicating most of his time to assisting his friends with the creation of their music and videos. Fortunately, as 2018 comes to a close, the talented artist returns his focus - at least publicly - to the liberation of his own content.

Green's latest release comes in the form of "ABBE", a record featuring a nostalgic sounding vibe coupled with a modernized energy. One might catch bits and pieces of the song that bring to mind fleeting memories of different classic rock bands - a testimony to Green's ability to find inspiration while still presenting a final product that is distinctively his own. With it's airy, trance-inducing sound, "ABBE" finds a way to leave listeners with a simultaneously active yet lethargic headspace. 

"ABBE" captivates listeners with overpowering production, the sonically gratifying instrumentation forcing Green's vocals to flo…

Sean Matsukawa - "Pink Runs Faster"

"Pink Runs Faster" was originally shared by Sean Matsukawa via SoundCloud a few months ago, but the evocatively alluring loosie found its way to my timeline today and quickly captured my attention. 

Backed by sorrowful, dispiriting instrumentation, Matsukawa fills the song with bone chilling vocals capturing an energy rooted in wonder and confusion. There's an encompassing aura of fear and loss, coupled with an overarching anticipation of loneliness, that makes "Pink Runs Faster" eerily and unfortunately relatable. It's a record one doesn't want to connect with - yet, due to the unembellished delivery of such raw content, the listener feels the waves of Matsukawa's tonal communication wash throughout the depths of their being.

The self-produced "Pink Runs Faster" serves as my introduction to the LA-based artist, whose catalogue I'll be diving into as extensively as possible. While fans await new music from Matsukawa, there appears to…

jus lovehall - "THANK YOU"

jus lovehall has been one of the most talented cats in CT - and really just in general - since his days as a youngin' rocking with the Cold Blooded crew. I can vividly recall the first time I heard dude's music, being awestruck at his ability to flow so smoothly while dropping such intricate wordplay.

He was in his late teens at the time.

Regardless of how gifted he was back then, jus has done nothing but level up over time - praises due to an unparalleled drive and dedication to his craft. And today, jus lovehall makes his highly anticipated return to releasing music, inspired by the actions of his friend Bleek during a recent battle with depression.

This one is a beautiful testament to brotherhood and life, capturing with precision the maneuvering through the highs and the lows of existing. It calls to attention the importance of looking out for those around you - even your skrong friends - and mindfully showing love to the people that love you, because you might not have t…

Hāwane - "Directions" (feat. Nahko) (Video)

The beauty and power of song - and prayer - is it's ability to transcend language barriers. When the energy and intentions are pure, one does not need to understand fully the words in order to feel and recognize the message that lies within them.

Such is the case with Hāwane's recent collaboration with Nahko. While fans of Nahko and Medicine for the People will surely recognize the instrumentation and pick up on some of the lyrics, the majority of the song is delivered in Hawaiian. Regardless of this, the listener receives the message and the intentions of "Directions" thanks to Hāwane's enchanting, heart-centered delivery. It's as though Creator is speaking through Rios, her physical vessel a channel from which the prayer flows freely.

Nahko provides backing vocals on "Directions", subtly liberating the softly spoken streams of consciousness in tandem with Hāwane's simultaneously peaceful yet efficacious song. While prayer is powerful on it…

Sol - "The Kids" [prod. Elan Wright, Nima Skeemz & Teal Douville]

Sol kicks off his latest release with a simple phrase: real shit. And he proceeds to lay out a fundamentally simple - and very real - manifesto regarding the state of the world we live in today and the changes that must be made in order to leave a better world for the kids to inhabit.

While the Seattle-based Sol has proven himself highly capable of creating uplifting, energetic party anthems, he takes a different route with "The Kids". Although the vibes are still positive, and the track is saturated with hope rising from the despair, Sol's latest drop comes from a place of dissatisfaction with a number of issues facing our society and world right now. Rather than wallow in the misery of the climate around him, Solzilla picks himself up and holds himself accountable - change, after all, starts with the individual.

From there, through our personal actions, the waves of change have the potential to ripple out and take hold of others. Indeed, this is how man moves mountains…

Hale Hale - "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (feat. Zhero) [prod. Matthew Cyr]

'Tis the season.

As radio stations, television commercials, stores and homes everywhere fill the air with Christmas music galore, quite a few individuals are beginning to moan and groan about the overplayed and repetitive nature of such music.

Fortunately, there is always a remix or reworked version of your favorite - or least favorite - Christmas classic lurking around the corner. And this is exactly what Haley brings to the table, joining forces with Zhero for a magically unique rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside". Perhaps poking at the proverbial sleeping bear, the duet takes the now controversial tune and flips it into a modern day, vibed out bop.

Featuring enticing production from Matthew Cyr, the HK/Zhero version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" floats through the winter cold, effortlessly transitioning between both artist's vocals as they converse with their crooning. It's a warm, comforting, updated take on the timeless original, possess…

1:2 - "butterfly effect"

...and I don't usually smoke but pass the 'dro.

Although I'm almost certain this was not the goal of the record, I can't recall a track in recent memory that had me feeling like I needed to answer the call of the herbal siren song quite like "butterfly effect" does.

"butterfly effect" is an eclectic collection of vibes, brought into existence by RUDY and Chad B. Springer, collectively known as 1:2. Over the course of the record, the two artists take turns soulfully filling the airy, synthy production with soft and passionate vocals, taking listeners on an earnest adventure into the heart.

While both RUDY and Springer have their creative plates full with solo work, group projects and various collaborations, they somehow found the time to link for yet another supergroup we didn't know we needed as badly as we do. Praises due because these two have crafted a symbiotic exchange of creative energy that blasts all those who hit play off to a distant …

Jobo - "Don't Talk About It" (feat. Ty Hookz & RUDY)

Saw this one in the inbox and immediately began marking out.

Before hitting play, I knew I was going to enjoy what was on the other end of "Don't Talk About It". With Jobo, Ty Hookz and Rudy all on the same record, it was sure to be a special listening experience littered with unique juxtapositions of styles and energy.

"Don't Talk About It" begins with Hookz dropping gems of wisdom, flowing over the production with a hauntingly calm delivery. There's a nearly unmatched cleverness to Ty's content, the Hartford-based artist layering his bars with a witty depth. We've heard a few new tracks from Hookz recently, hopefully a sign that 2019 is going to be a more fruitful year in regards to music.

Jobo closes out the new record doing what he does best, coupling his self-aware, braggadocious style with wrestling references and knife-edged chops that come in the form of lyrical quips. This makes for two tracks from Jobo I've heard in the last week …

Fatal Lucciauno - Speak Into Existence [prod. HunnidK Servo] (Video)

Following the release of "Mozart n Harlem", Fatal Lucciauno returns with another music video for a joint that can be found on his recent album, Kalito.

On "Speak Into Existence", Fatal rides the slow, wavy production that comes courtesy of HunnidK Servo, filling the record with existential bars. Almost meditative in his delivery, there's a reflective, dream-like energy brought forth throughout the video, as listeners are able to experience the constant battle between the angel and the devil that reside upon Lucciauno's shoulders.

Kalito is available now on all major streaming platforms.

Hit play on the Ninnio Spaulding-directed visuals below.

Raz Simone - "Santa Claus" [prod. Tarek Holmes] (Video)

On "Cold", a throwback record that finds life on Raz Simone's Solomon Samuel Simone EP, the Black Umbrella artist ends his second verse with a strikingly blunt observation regarding the lie and illusion that surrounds Santa Claus. The delivery of Simone's words on "Cold" have stuck with me ever since first hearing them and, without fail, I find myself mentally reciting the bars whenever the subject of Santa is breached.

Of course, this time of year, Santa is mentioned in heavy rotation. So Simone's words have been running through my head quite a bit lately.

Needless to say, it came as quite a surprise when Raz dropped off a new, Christmas-themed visual experience today. Despite not celebrating holidays, Simone found it within himself to tap into a little bit of the Christmas spirit that's permeating society right now, albeit with his own, unique twist thrown into the mix.

"Santa Claus" is littered with Christmas references, both visually …

Ian Matthew - "Ashtray"

Beyond creating good music, the most vital characteristic in any artist is - in my opinion - growth. And growth comes in many forms but, more often than not, the greatest growth comes from recognizing shortcomings; from falling and getting back up, learning from the highs and lows of the evolutionary process.

"Ashtray" is the first joint I've heard from Ian Matthew that makes me feel like dude is truly stepping into his own artistically. And I mean that with the utmost respect.

The latest drop from the CT-based artist features Ian taking a few big steps back from a stereotypical, bar-heavy hip-hop sound, instead embracing a smooth style that is highlighted by some passionate crooning. And, man, it works really well.

Backed by some light acoustic production, Ian is able to allow the emotion to emanate from his vocals, capturing the attention of the listener with his raw delivery. There are enough emcees filling records with catch-as-catch-can lyrical prowess, making it d…

NIKO IS - 'UNIKO' (Stream)

In 2014, I reached out to Javotti Media in hopes of landing an interview with Talib Kweli. Before the interview took place, I was asked if I had any interest in chopping it up with two other Javotti-housed artists - one of which was NIKO IS.

This would be my introduction to the best hair in the biz. I was first served the sonic delicacies of NIKO IS shortly before the release of GOOD BLOOD, fervently hitting play on whatever rappetizers I could find. I was drawn to the uniqueness of the Brasilian-born and Orlando-based artist, who had managed to catch the attention and support of Talib Kweli for reasons that quickly became apparent. While so many artists attempt to prop themselves up with gimmicks, locked in the industry standard of cookie cutter trends, NIKO stood out with his sui generis energy and style - both of which were chilluminated by a near unparalleled level of authenticity.

Regardless of what NIKO IS was speaking on in his music, it always felt believable and real.

And N…

Michael Kirby - 'Spying on Heaven' (Stream)

I have to be honest - there is a strong desire to prelude any discussion of Spying on Heaven with a backstory or two, chronicling the lapse of time that has taken place in between musical offerings from Michael Kirby. But, at the end of the day, I don't know the real details and there is never a need to deal in rumors or innuendos. So, rather than spend unnecessary time away from the music at hand, I'm going to listen to my heart and focus instead on the gratitude I've been feeling all day thanks to our first project from Michael Kirby - formerly Mic Kurb - in what feels like ages.

Spying on Heaven is smoothness personified, as Kirb's delivery on each of the album's ten tracks radiates with a fortified sense of self-awareness amidst constant self-discovery. We hear stories from a young man, told through his lyrics but felt through his energy and demeanor. Listeners are welcomingly opened to Kirby's headspace, discovering a vast spectrum of emotions that are roo…

Ian Kelly - 'Champian' (Stream)

Those following the Jamla family on social media have witnessed the praising of Ian Kelly since publicly announcing his linking with the Squad. The Oakland-raised artist, who relocated to North Carolina to pursue his dreams alongside 9th's crew, took full advantage of the exposure that came along with his placement on the Jamla Is The Squad II compilation, leaving it all on the table over the course of his multiple placements throughout the album.

When you're sharing album time with the likes of his Jamla counterparts - Rapsody, GQ, Heather Victoria, and more - you better bring your best. Add in various features from the likes of Black Thought, J. Cole and Busta Rhymes, to name a few, and the pressure is really on for the rookie of the family to put on full display exactly why he belongs in one of music's most talented collectives.

If you haven't experienced the November release, stop playing yourself and go check it out. If you have, then you recognize Kelly proved h…

Warm Gun - "No Reservations"

The always versatile Warm Gun comes through with a smooth cut that'll help add some heat to these progressively colder winter days.

With "No Reservations", the Black Umbrella affiliated artist adds some well-traveled streams of consciousness to a vibe-heavy instrumental he's been sitting on for a minute. Finding inspiration in his time away from home, Warm Gun delivers a finely crafted serenade that manages to dance upon the line that separates love and lust.

Throughout the new record, listeners are opened to the vast range of talent that exists within Chinn's arsenal. Beyond the admirable fact "No Reservations" was written, produced and performed by Warm Gun, the track features intricate instrumentation that couples the waves of lyrical delivery magnificently. We're journeying alongside Chinn, able to visualize and experience the story at hand thanks to the sonic vehicle supplied by the joint's production.

Press play on "No Reservations&q…

Trevor Hall - "Jupiter's Call" (feat. Will Evans) (Video)

Trevor Hall gifted Villagers with an impromptu, Will Evans-featured performance of "Jupiter's Call" last month, liberating a breathtaking visual shot by his beloved, Emory Hall, from atop Crater Lake in Oregon.

Filmed while Hall was on tour this Fall, the acoustic jam session is an airy, upliftingly dulcet presentation of the Fruitful Darkness record. The simple, grounding and inspiring song finds a sense of relatability in it's personal nature, as Trevor's music has a tendency to do. Tucked gently beneath the comfort of Hall's melodic delivery, listeners are able to discover the powerful lessons and messages shared through the song's lyrical content.

The addition of Will Evans, who shared the stage with Trevor throughout the tour, resulted in a magical rendition of "Jupiter's Call", highlighted by the spontaneous energy encompassing the duet. Both artists flow together majestically, building in tandem upon the energy brought forth by the ot…

Locksmith - "Prison" [prod. Kato On The Track] (Video)

You'd be well advised to set "Prison" on loop so you can sit back and just allow the latest from Locksmith to run itself back naturally. 'Cause you will be listening to this one more than once, out of entertainment and out of necessity.

"Prison" leaves no stone unturned as Locksmith goes on a tear throughout the new record that finds life alongside "Clouds" on Lock's recently released Ali. The track, which is rooted in a strong sense of personal accountability, features the Richmond-based emcee going in on the music industry, the political systems, celebrities and fame, the various means of social conditioning in place, and a whole lot more. Locksmith pulls no punches and cuts straight to the point - there's no need to dive deep into conspiracy theories when the bullshit is so clearly seen on the surface if you simply open your eyes. 

Accountability - holding yourself and others accountable for choices, actions, etc. Locksmith boldly poi…

Jack Larsen - "I Became My Brother" (Video)

With "I Became My Brother", arguably his most audacious release to date, Jack Larsen continues to demonstrate his dexterous ability at imagining and bringing to life captivating, uniquely pop-infused coming-of-age musical sagas.

"I Became My Brother" features an incredibly simple lyrical foundation that sounds vastly more complex thanks to the Chicago-based artist's vocal delivery and the energy from which he presents his prose. There's a growing confidence on display throughout the record and video, as if Jack dropped "Ugly" and then proceeded to level up both artistically and personally. While the self-discovery is still an ongoing process, viewers are now witnessing Larsen create with less fear about being - and putting on display - his true self.

The chaotic mess of production, which bounces all over the place, is pieced together exquisitely, adding a new layer of expression to the already telling nature of "I Became My Brother". Th…

RUDY - "LINES" (Video)

RUDY gave his word he'd be releasing new content in some form or fashion every Friday for the remainder of 2018 and those weekly drops have quickly become one of my most anticipated moments each week. The Young Gawd has me feeling like Ye did during the G.O.O.D. Friday releases, eagerly awaiting the new art.

With "LINES", we get our first taste of solo content since RUDY released BY MY LONESOME in July of this year. And, my God, you would be hard pressed to argue the CT-based artist has done anything other than steadily create a platform for himself upon which few could even begin to artistically ascend to.

I'm a huge proponent of Connecticut artists, readily willing to argue the music scene in the state is chalk-full of talented individuals who possess the ability to connect with an audience beyond CT's borders. But with RUDY, it's like he's on a wave all his own. The label of "best" or "most talented" is absolutely a matter of taste…

Fatal Lucciauno - "Mozart n Harlem" [prod. HunnidK Servo] (Video)

I'm a firm believer in the idea that in order to improve and grow, you have to surround yourself with people who are more talented than you - individuals who push you to greater heights and encompass you with the energy that will allow you to reach and surpass your greatest version.

And that's what makes the Black Umbrella family so beautiful. Whether we're speaking on the lyricists, the production team, the videographers/photographers, or the creative directors, from top to bottom the squad is chalk full of talented, like-minded and motivated individuals who are consistently bringing out the best in each other. While the artists each bring something unique to the table, and it's purely based on perception and taste who's the "best", it's impossible to ignore or deny the artistic and personal growth Black Umbrella-affiliated individuals undergo with each new release.

With his latest project, Kalito, out now, Black Umbrella's Fatal Lucciauno steps…