The past month or so has featured a few highly anticipated music drops. In favor of saving time, I decided to highlight a some of the best ones in one consolidated review.
Denzel Curry – ZUU
It’s funny: despite his commercial success and the acclaim he’s garnered so far, I still feel that Denzel Curry is an underrated artist. He really might be one of the best rappers under the age of 25, and easily one of the greatest exports of the SoundCloud era. On TABOO, Curry meshed hip-hop’s more “traditional” values with that of the current generation to create his magnum opus up to this point as well as a Top 10 album of 2018.
Less than a year later, the South Florida rapper returns with a shorter album that’s less saturated with substantive content and introspection, but dials the commercial appeal and hometown homage all the way up. Whether it’s the introductory title track, the tribute to Denzel’s father “Ricky,” or the Rick Ross-assisted industrial slapper “Birdz,” nearly every song here absolutely BANGS, providing listeners with the perfect soundtrack for the summer. Content-wise, Denzel is much more glamorous, but he’s also repping his city and its musical history more overtly than he has on any of his preceding projects (e.g. “Carolmart” and “Shake 88”). So even though there’s less to digest lyrically, Curry is still offering listeners an honest glimpse at the people, culture, and environment that have influenced and inspired him up to this point.
GoldLink – Diaspora
In an interview with Spotify before its release, GoldLink stated that his newest album “was inspired by universal blackness…D.C. is still the root of all my success as far as perspective, but I wanted to create a bridge between cultures around the world.” On the appropriately-titled Diaspora, GoldLink showcases this range and variety of Black music from around the world, as he incorporates various aspects of hip-hop, dancehall, afro-beat, etc. If there was ever an album this year that catered to the dance floor, it’s certainly this album — look no further than the pulsing beat of “Zulu Screams,” or the album’s definitive summer jam, “More.”
And when the DC rapper isn’t front and center, showcasing his relaxed cadence and butter-smooth flow, he’s sharing the stage with a myriad of guests, such as Pusha T, Tyler the Creator, Maleek Berry, Wizkid, and a host of other names, all of whom, for the most part, help accentuate the beauty and diversity of the African diaspora that GoldLink is trying to drive home.
Benny The Butcher – The Plugs I Met
In a time where melodic trap has basically become as ubiquitous as pop music, every once in a while it feels incredibly refreshing to hear something a little old school. Griselda artist Benny The Butcher, who delivered one of the best albums of 2018 in Tana Talk 3, has already established himself as one of rap’s most vivid coke rappers, in a realm alongside the likes of Jay-Z, Pusha T, and Freddie Gibbs. And on The Plugs I Met, he once again rarely misses.
He and his cast of features — which include Black Thought, Jadakiss, and Push — deliver bar after bar of picturesque street narratives, with a plethora of dope quotables (“More bars than them niggas who got hit with them Reagan laws“).
The project’s only real shortcoming is its brevity; with that being said, the quality of The Plugs I Met, despite Benny’s quick turnaround — less than seven months after Tana Talk 3 — speaks to the quality and artistry of Benny and his Griselda associates.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana
And on the topic of vivid drug rappers, there probably isn’t a single one who’s career has been characterized by a level of consistency as high as Gary, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs‘. (It is my firm belief that he doesn’t have a single bad album.) A grimy wordsmith and one of the best modern street commentators, Gibbs struck gold in 2014 on Piñata, his collaboration with legendary producer Madlib and what can only be considered a classic album of the modern era.
After being teased since 2016, the duo reunites on the long-awaited sequel, Bandana, which breaks the “sequel curse” by getting about as close to the original as fans could’ve possibly wanted. Gibbs brings his usual brand of gutter lyrics, versatile flows, and vivid crack-slanging narratives, while Madlib works his sample-chopping magic once again while making it look easy — according to him, he composed all of the beats on Bandana on his iPad.
Something should also be said for the quality of the features, which help magnify the brilliance of this album. Pusha T goes 3 for 3 in the month of June in terms of excellent guest features; Anderson .Paak delivers one of the best hooks on the entire project; and Black Thought does what Black Thought has been doing for the better part of three decades.
Bandana delivers on the hype and perhaps puts itself in the driver seat for the album of the year.
What did you think of these albums? What were some of your favorite music releases from the past month?