There have been a lot of weird, laughable moments in 2016 — a lot of overreactions over tweets and the like. A root cause of these reactions is people taking themselves way too seriously. The world is full of big problems, and little things seem to irritate people and consume their daily thoughts. In music, too, you feel people driving themselves crazy with their own seriousness. The reason so many people get into music is, of course, for self-expression, but also to entertain. It is easy to forget that, and important to remind yourself. It’s not that serious. You might want it to be, but it’s really not. Just have fun with it while it lasts.
NOTE: The SoundCloud mix is missing track 4 (“Moon II” by Louis Val) and track 16 (“Movie Screens” by Rory Fresco). Original image by Damon Casarez for NYT.
Today is my 24th birthday. The significance in this year is that it’s my year of the Black Mamba. This has absolutely nothing to do with music, but not much needs to be said other than the fact that both Frank Ocean (finally!), and Young Thug dropped new albums this month. Check out Best of August, as well as, Best of July below!
You may be currently sipping a cocktail in the backyard and tanning your skin away, but we all know the inevitable is coming — the end of summer. I know, it burns our ears too, but let’s not forget all the good times basking in the sun quite yet. We’ve compiled the perfect playlist for your last minute BBQs and days at the park. There are songs literally about summer (Kate Nash), songs that just make you want to get down at the labor day party (Roy Woods, Mac Miller), and some tracks that are simply light and catchy (Big Baby D.R.A.M., Kali Uchis) for those “windows down” car rides. Before you kiss the sun and warmth goodbye, take this playlist for a spin and just live in the summer moment.
I have been reading Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography Steve Jobs, and in it he describes Jobs’ “reality distortion field,” in which Jobs appropriated reality to fit his own singular focus. It is a tool Jobs used to speak things into fruition and to empower his employees to make the impossible possible. His colleagues often despised his rigorous, borderline irrational demands, but in the end, these high expectations often benefited the final product, and for that, the surviving workers thanked him.
I think anyone with unconventional goals needs to occasionally bend reality to fit his or her vision. You can’t lose grip on reality, but a blind faith supported by hard work seems like a tried and true recipe for success.
This mix is the soundtrack heard upon entering your own reality distortion field. It touches on spirituality and features dancehall sounds with some obvious sounds of digital distortion — just to remind you that you are momentarily dissociated from reality.
Are you working or just wasting your time? Did I mention that you’re still on my mind?
NOTE: This mix was meant to include “Somewhere in Australia” by Louis Val as track 6, but the track was removed from Soundcloud.
Young Thug has long been a divisive character in hip-hop. People complain that he sounds funny, he acts funny, and he dresses funny. We are now a good 2 years (and hundreds of songs) into his meteoric ascension to mainstream consciousness. I felt it was fitting, especially before his rumored name change to No, My Name is Jeffery, to put together the Young Thug ‘Greatest Hits’ so far. Something to finally explain to the Young Thug doubters, who have somehow blissfully ignored all evidence of Thug’s greatness up to this point, definitively why the Atlanta native is rap royalty. Unfortunately, I was not the guy who could adequately put this together. To create the mix and write about what Young Thug means to him, I employed the talents of Sun-Ui Yum, a rising junior at Harvard and an expert on all things Young Thug.
Written by Sun-Ui Yum. Follow him on Twitter here.
I think the first rap song I ever cared about was “Stronger.” The first rap album I ever listened to was My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and the first rap artist whose every move I followed in as uniquely comprehensively as Twitter push notifications allows for is certainly Kanye West. Watch the Throne is the first album I ever stayed up all night in bed to listen to, and Yeezus is the first album for which I scoured YouTube for live videos of live DJ performances of unreleased songs. I think I knew every word to “New Slaves” months before the album. I’m not sure when that singular fixation shifted away from Kanye West for me, but the moment I realized it came earlier this year, when I couldn’t listen to The Life of Pablo without thinking of Slime Season 3.
I don’t really think it’s fair to make any sort of argument that Young Thug is a better artist than Kanye West – I’m sure there is one somewhere, and almost certainly one that I could formulate, but not one that I could comfortably write and get behind and stay behind, especially as I look at the list of Billboard Hot 100 singles under Kanye West on Wikipedia. What I do know is that Young Thug songs have logged significantly more plays than Kanye West songs in my iTunes, that Young Thug is the reference point around which all other artists rotate for me, and when the rare moment strikes that whatever music I’m listening to doesn’t click and I would almost prefer to be in silence, Young Thug drags me out of the pit without fail.
It has always been a pretty definitive fact that Young Thug can rap circles around people (just listen to how he winds up, then unravels on “Mine”), but it is increasingly clear that he has legitimate, legitimate hits in the arsenal. Kanye West knows, Travi$ Scott knows, Gucci Mane always knew – so does T.I., Usher, and Tinashe. It has also always been pretty clear that Thug has pushed the boundary, and everyone has followed – but we didn’t know that he was pushing those boundaries in 2016 with music that was recorded in 2013. At some point, his new project Jeffery is going to drop under some name. It will likely be the newest music Young Thug has ever recorded and released under a project. While it is clear that Thug is only moving up, it is impossible to predict in which direction he will veer. Will he be a full-blown pop star? A Travi$ Scott that simmers just under the radio radar? A cult hero? That is why this is the most important milestone of Young Thug’s career, a clear demarcation with a before-and-after. Who knows what it will be exactly? You just know it will be good.
Original image by Harley Weir
This mix is inspired by the wonderful Netflix original series Stranger Things and my growing concern that we might be living in its Upside Down World in light of the domestic shootings, international terrorism, and triumphs of Donald Trump in recent months. The mix also features my favorite songs of the past month, so naturally, it leans toward the more optimistic side–more DNC than RNC, if you will.
There are a few political tracks in the beginning. Then, it dips back into the epic love story consistent with most of my mixes (and most music, for that matter). In Stranger Things terms, the first half is fighting the Demogorgon. The second half is the Jonathan-Nancy storyline.
Spoiler alert: Who else was upset that Nancy got back with Steve? Smh, Steve is a tool.
What you gon’ do now that the summer’s over?
Even Allday, Australia’s preeminent left-field druggie rap-singer, isn’t immune to the Toronto influence. His latest single, “Sides,” clearly has some northern sensibility with its ominous synth beat and NYNE doing a pretty decent Weeknd impression on the hook.
“Sides” is the rapper’s first track since his Startup Cult record dropped in 2015, and it has us realizing just what we’ve been missing over the last 10-plus months.
That album cemented him as a master at walking the line between pop rap and something woozier and darker. The chorus here is Views-level catchy, and Allday’s verses have some serious bite, similar to “Right Now,” another surefire banger that was a highlight of Startup.
All in all, “Sides” is proof that Allday remains in mid-season form.
NOVA has long been known as a one of the premier young producers in the game (some of you may remember him as one of the initial Jon Waltz collaborators). For the past year and a half, NOVA has been releasing solo tracks featuring his own vocals. His songs continue rap and R&B’s current modus operandi of extending the range and possibilities of autotuned vocals. It is not a particularly unique sound; NOVA just does it better. It helps that he is his own producer. These four tracks flourish in the pockets where NOVA flexes his production chops, adding depth and detail to otherwise ordinary moments. This EP is the result of years of experience in imagining sounds and executing songwriting ideas.
Download 19 here via a PayPal donation to NOVA’s mom.
Zoe Cartier is an autotune architect from New Orleans who floats over beats and has likely had intimate relations with your girl. Her newest mixtape Enfant Sauvage (that’s French for “wild child”) is a focused, career-altering testimony on sex, drugs, and general savagery.
LA transplants the KnowMads were featured on Sunset back in 2012 as they were riding the groundswell of Seattle hip hop hype that catapulted Macklemore into mass consciousness. While the duo hasn’t quite hit the FM airwaves as hard, they have built a steady grass-roots following that has continued to support them as they uprooted to Los Angeles. The change of scenery is reflected in their latest LP, Knew School, which features some of their most accessible tunes yet.
We have the pleasure of premiering their newest single “Freshman Year” whose summery piano laden beat is complimented by the boys heartfelt high school nostalgia; painting a vivid and compelling picture of how hip hop shaped their formative years.
High Rule feeds the ears of music with “No Filter,” a witty, and playful take on pop culture in our society. While not my favorite from the Chicago based duo, High Rule still stays true to their unique sound, and as a result, it’s still something to mess with. This acts as the second single off of their debut EP, In Real Life.