As the past few weeks have shown, the number of weekly music drops seems to be ramping up as we approach the summer. In favor of saving time, I decided to highlight a few album releases from the past week in one consolidated review.
Beast Coast – Escape from New York
Ever since they came along earlier this decade, Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and the Underachievers seemed to inject new life back into the waning state of New York hip-hop. And ever since the inception of this new Beast Coast movement, many people, including me, have anticipated a possible collaboration that combined the groups’ powers and showcased the burgeoning talent and diversity of New York rap. However, “New York rap” isn’t quite what we get on this long-awaited collab album Escape from New York.
The title “Escape from New York” is fitting, because stylistically, this album is a departure from what we have come to associate with the Beast Coast. Trap, subbass, and even moments of auto-tuned crooning, permeate the 47-minute runtime. This, of course, isn’t really a knock on the album, considering that Flatbush Zombies themselves have made a living off of this kind of musicality, as well as the fact that the album contains a number of really good tracks. But it seems — and maybe this is just me — that the album fails to fully showcase all three groups at their best. The super-psychedelic production we hear on some of the Underachievers’ best records is nowhere to be found. The jazzy, sample-heavy, boom-bap fusion — on which Pro Era first staked their claim nearly 7 years ago, and of which is most characteristic of classical New York hip-hop — is also nearly non-existent on this album. The production, as I said earlier, is much more in Flatbush Zombies’ wheelhouse, and even then, it feels like a slightly watered-down version of some of their most brilliant moments of the past.
Considering that all three groups seem far removed from the sort of hip-hop renaissance they ushering in, this album consequently lacks that same fervor.
Flying Lotus – Flamagra
Flying Lotus has long been one of music’s most forward-thinking and quirkiest producers. FlyLo’s generally trippy, psychedelic music and visuals have given audiences just a small glimpse into the mind of a multi-talented artist who, throughout his career, has left an undeniable imprint on the genres of hip-hop, jazz, and electronic music.
But it’s been nearly five years that we last got a full length album from visionary Californian producer. During that time, he directed and scored the independent movie Kuso, worked with fellow Brainfeeder artist and frequent collaborator Thundercat, and worked on parts of this new album, Flamagra.
On Flamagra, Flying Lotus sort of combines every avenue he’s explored thus far in his career, with strong returns to the nu jazz aesthetic he ran with on You’re Dead! (supposedly, Flamagra is a prequel to You’re Dead! and a sequel to Cosmogramma). Over the course of an hour and seven minute-long runtime over 27 tracks, the album makes for a thrilling journey with enough twists and turns to keep listeners on their toes.
And given the fact that Flamagra contains the most features that FlyLo has ever had on an album — with collaborations with Thundercat, Solange, Denzel Curry, Tierra Whack, Anderson .Paak, Little Dragon, George Clinton, and others — it’s surprising (or, rather, unsurprising) that he is able to craft songs that both play to each artists’ strengths and still fit together to create a cohesive body of work.
YG – 4REAL 4REAL
The release of Bompton rapper YG’s latest album is a quick turnaround from his 2018 album Stay Dangerous — an album that was passable at best and completely forgettable at worst.
4REAL 4REAL is a big step up from that album in terms of quality and consistency. It certainly isn’t in the same stratosphere that My Krazy Life and Still Brazy are in, but on 4REAL, we witness the return of a rapper who undoubtedly sounds more inspired following the passing of his friend Nipsey Hussle, and who fortunately still has some interesting stories to tell.
To name a few: on “Keshia Had a Baby,” YG tells the story of a young woman who took her old flame for granted, and ends up dealing with infidelity in her new relationship. On the “heartfelt” song “Heart 2 Heart,” YG and Meek Mill reflect on many of life’s obstacles and offer encouraging advice to friends who’re down on their luck. And on “Play Too Much,” the Bompton rapper details the dismay he feels after he falls for a girl who ends up taking advantage of his finances.
And to the delight of many, YG also briefly returns to the G-funk elements he indulged in on Still Brazy. On songs like the aforementioned “Play Too Much” and “Do Yo Dance,” as well as just generally across the album, YG sounds much more comfortable and at home than he did on the trap-heavy Stay Dangerous.
Again, we’re not quite getting the great instrumental and lyrical quality YG delivered on his first two albums. But 4REAL 4REAL — which is really the first solid project he has released in almost three years — still provides intriguing moments of flare; and, more importantly, YG proves that his days of quality content are not entirely long-gone.
What did you think of these albums? What were some of your favorite music releases from the past week?