The fact that Noname’s Room 25 is our album of the year despite its relative lack of promotion is truly a testament to the quality of the album. Every track wows on its own but gets even better within the context of the album. Its live instrumentation and Noname’s poetic vocals give Room 25 the feeling of it being just you and her, something no other album is able to achieve to the same degree. All in all it’s the most cohesive and surprising album of 2018 and is deservedly our number one. —Daniel Moran
Dirty Computer — Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe’s latest release accompanied an “Emotion Picture” of the same name — a gorgeous combination of music video and narrative film loaded with social commentary.
Last week, Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music. This was the first time that a non-classical, non-jazz work was awarded the prize. I love Kendrick Lamar and I thoroughly enjoy Damn., but nevertheless, my reactions to this decision are mixed. Not, of course, about whether Kendrick Lamar’s work is deserving of such acclaim; indeed, the musical complexity and poetic mastery present on Damn., as well as earlier albums like To Pimp a Butterfly, warrant the utmost critical respect.
“You so fucking precious when you smile,” sings Bazzi on the opening lines of his breakthrough single “Mine” which was released in October of 2017. The song rose to prominence in early 2018 after being featured in a Snapchat filter as well as on a recent playlist curated by Taylor Swift. The song has been streamed millions of times and has peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Largely due to “Mine” and an endorsement from Apple Music granting him heavy promotion, the 20-year-old Michigan native Bazzi’s debut studio album COSMIC had become one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2018. And its arrival has not been a let down.
Mike Floss was the catalyst to the night, starting off with a high energy set that featured heavy R&B beats, influenced by popular artists such as Travis Scott and Lil Uzi. Arriving in Ithaca from Tennessee, Floss brought his innovative and unique sound, inspired by the regressive rap culture prominent in Nashville. Sporting the finest of urban street wear, Floss took the stage in a black and red tracksuit with an embroidered head scarf, belting out his “Freak of the Week.” Floss’s sound radiated throughout Barton Hall, as his opening track surely set the tone for a high energy night. About midway through his performance, Floss pointed to a section leftward of the stage that just wasn’t keeping up with his energy level. He laughed and said, “Don’t worry though.
The 60th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony was held on Sunday evening and opened with an appearance by Kendrick Lamar. His performance consisted of a medley with songs like “DNA.” and “XXX.” from Damn. and “King’s Dead” from the Black Panther soundtrack. To accurately describe his performance in words would ultimately futile — though I will briefly attempt to do it anyway. I encourage you to check it out.
For a generation who practically grew up on the internet, the age-old American adage of “Do It Yourself” has never loomed so tantalizingly close overhead. Want to make a music video for Youtube? Do it yourself. Want to organize a rally on Facebook? Do it yourself.
In January of 2017 Donald Glover, better known as Childish Gambino, gave a shout out to three of music’s hottest on-the-rise M.C.s: Quavo, Offset and Takeoff. Together they formed the group Migos. A few days after Glover’s mention of the trio, Migos dropped the album Culture, which quickly reached critical acclaim. From there, Migos saw a successful summer, playing on a massive tour with Future and making several festival appearances. In the midst of their busy summer, Offset dropped a major bomb: the announcement of Culture II.
Ephorize, CupcakKe’s newest album, does not deliver a message or follow a theme based on the tracklist alone. It requires listening, but does not make a chore out of it, as the album is filled with fun and clever bars. CupcakKe, a female rapper from Chicago, has been in the spotlight since her 2016 mixtape, Cum Cake. After that, her 2017 album, Queen Elizabitch kept her momentum with its consistency and uniqueness. CupcakKe is nothing like Cardi B, Nicki Minaj or any other highly popular female rappers.
In its initial conception, the music of hip-hop was not intended to drive any encompassing social message or lyrical commentary. Of course, as a diasporic musical form, it is inherently political, but in 1970 not many individuals were rapping in the modern sense of that word, let alone dropping verses that deal with police brutality or socioeconomic marginalization. The “invention” of hip-hop is not unlike the trope of accidental ingenuity that we love to attribute to the creation of all our most beloved things, like Edison and the lightbulb, or Wozniak and the Apple computer. The tinkering in this case took place not in a Palo Alto garage, but in the recreational room of a high-rise apartment building in the South Bronx, just off the Expressway. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHL6iKpZ8hc
A young Jamaican-American DJ, with knowledge of the dance hall culture of the country from which he migrated, made the simple discovery that there are some songs, and more pertinently, certain instrumental breaks of some songs, to which people enjoy dancing the most.
Lecrae has always been an artist who does not like boxes, and those who attempt to categorize him into one would be hard-pressed to try. Bringing the gospel to hip-hop long before Chance came to the scene, Lecrae’s ability to maneuver between disparate, non-interacting circles served as both his greatest strength and weakness. Being a two-time Grammy Award winner and having performed on Jimmy Fallon and Sway in the Morning, he has achieved a level of success unseen by Christian artists. His diverse catalogue defies categorization and yet for all these pioneering advancements, it seemed that what he gained came at the cost of personal piety. Beginning in 2012 with Church Clothes, its subsequent sequels and his chart-topping 2014 LP Anomaly, he introduced listeners to a more socially-minded Lecrae; the bona-fide rapper was still spitting fierce rhymes, but in his razor-sharp criticism of social injustice he seemed to have lost the vibrancy and passion of articulating his faith, which was a staple of his earlier works.