by Rhys Pearson
MORALE & THE BIG STEPPERS – KENDRICK LAMAR
Released: May 13, 2022
Runtime: 1 Hour 13 Minutes
After a five year hiatus, the Pulitzer Prize winner and rapper Kendrick Lamar has returned with a double album.
Though Lamar is back with his dynamic and mesmerizing songwriting and rapping, this album is in a league of its own in comparison to his other universally acclaimed albums like DAMN and To Pimp A Butterfly. But it will depend on who you ask if it’s a league above or below its predecessors. MM&TBS is Kendrick Lamar in a long therapy session, reflecting, remorsing, reminiscing and resenting, whether this be in his personal life and his unfaithfulness to his wife, to the state of our culture, to reflecting on being put on the same pedestal as a god who preaches how to live.
I am indifferent to the album. Whilst Kendrick Lamar is easily one of my favorite modern day rappers, I cannot find much replay value in the record. Lyrically and conceptually the album is great, though I would’ve much preferred to read his lyrics as if they were written as part of a book. However, in saying that I can’t remember a single lyric that stood out to me. Though he has some stellar producers like Pharrell Willams, Boi-1da, The Alchemist and Sounwave (to name a few), some of the beats seem very uninspired – that’s not to say I’m needing absolute bangers, just something to grab my attention. The biggest flaw of the album for me is his vocal performance; his flows and cadences and the vocal manipulators he uses just don’t work for me. There isn’t a single song I’ve taken with me from the album. I kinda wish his precursor single “The Heart Part V” was on the album; that single track topples anything on the album in my opinion.
SIMPLE – IDK
Released: May 6, 2022
Genre: Hip House
Runtime: 18 minutes
Executively produced by RnB/Soul producer KAYTRANADA, British-American rapper IDK brings a beautiful blend of hip-hop, lo-fi house beats and a splash of jazz on his newest EP.
IDK has only been on my radar since 2019, though he is labeled as a rapper, IDK does have the vocal talents to indulge us in some smooth soul chops. An example of this is on the song “Breathe”, with smooth drum kicks, a cruisy bass and synths that make you feel like you are floating in the sky and just vibing out with the birds. When IDK wants to switch up the gears, he comes packing some great laid back flows. His smooth vocals on the song “Dog Food”; a jazz rap banger with infectious drums and funky trumpets, features frequent collaborator Denzel Curry who brings the same energy he brought on MMESYF.
If you want a short, easy listen then this EP is one I’d recommend, constantly on rotation for me while I’m working.
After this EP, check out his album “Is He Real?”.
BLUE WATER ROAD – KEHLANI
Released: April 29, 2022
Genre: Contemporary RnB, Orchestral Pop
Runtime: 37 minutes
Love has and will always be a topic Kehlani explores with every album; the lust, the shame, the toxicity, the trauma and of course, the moments that give us butterflies.
Though with every new release comes a different angle in which she tackles it, her last record It Was Good Until It Wasn’t was her going through the motions of one bad relationship after the other, and cycling through one night stands with a gloomy moody setting. However on blue water road, Kehlani sounds more steamy and committed, she sounds hungry and more eager for her love to work, and it’s more bubbly even on darker songs like “any given sunday”. Featuring singer Blxst, whilst this song is about a strip club, it’s finding comfort with your lover and being able to go out to the strippers together. A bit of a raunchy track but the chemistry between the two artists is a stand out of the record. The follow up track “shooter interlude” is another stand out for me; it’s an honest, looming song where Kehlani sings and reflects on her life as a celebrity; the financial requests, the expectations from the public and fans.
Blue water road is an intimate and mature record for Kehlani, her takes on love and relationships are introspective and though she’s a celebrity, it’s all relatable.