Bryson Tiller – ‘True To Self’ (Review)

RCA (2017)

‘Trapsoul’ has been out for around two years now, and I imagine the plethora of babies that were conceived to its dulcet melodies are now well on their way to walking and talking. Bryson Tiller, on the other hand, does not share the same progression on his second full-length, ‘True to Self’; his mission, with respect to his sound, is one of retention. Amongst the uniform, economical and rather misty sonics, you’ll find him singing over trap beats, rapping over trappier beats, and attempting to reconcile issues of love and fame with those of his own identity.

However, it’s the issues of love which really constitute the bulk of Tiller’s attention. In fact, whether he’s convincing his beau to chill the weed over a gruff sample of Travis Scott’s ‘Backyard’ (‘Don’t Get Too High’), or resigning himself to a failing relationship (‘Somethin Tells Me’), it’s difficult to discern just how many women he’s actually addressing. Usually an album with more sexual story arcs than Game of Thrones would amount to frustration, yet this is not the case here: the sincerity in Tiller’s delivery and the subtlety of his descriptions anchor you to each and every footnote. Sure, there’s a slight whiff of Drake’s daddy dom complex here and there, but I’ve always believed these psychological idiosyncrasies add a bit of texture to the narrative.

Speaking of Drake, it seems ‘True to Self’ really cements Aubrey as Tiller’s closest vocal relative. That is to say, at this point, the pair both seem as comfortable rapping as they do singing (a comparison I withheld up until Tiller’s latest), they both share a penchant for breaking into melody halfway through a sixteen – and they’re even using the same producers. Tiller and Boi-1da’s menacing ‘Money Problems / Benz Truck’, for example, includes one of those “holy fuck” beat switch-ups that you’ll struggle to find on anything but ‘IYRTITL’, and even T-Minus gets a placement on the lead single. All of that said, Bryson Tiller is certainly not biting; his aesthetic is too polished to be considered borrowed. Even their tentative approaches to fame push their respective sounds in different directions: Bryson – into disputes with friends, and Drake – into the arms of various women. But, in fairness, this isn’t 2011, and Drake isn’t ‘having a hard time adjusting to fame’ anymore. If anything, he’s bathing in it – and why not?

Anyway, one of the biggest strengths of this album, by my lights, is that it doesn’t have a truly standout single. You may think that’s a bit strange; this is not something the labels would consider a win. But that is not how Bryson Tiller operates. He deals in subtle changes in mood rather than jarring changes in tempo. Once the ambience is set, different rhythms and emotions are brought in delicately to create something truly immersive. No features are necessary. Even the (now non-negotiable) Caribbean cut, ‘Run Me Dry’ – despite its hit power – swells gradually and slips away into ‘High Stakes’ without breaking the spell. ‘Trapsoul’ ran a similar course, and all for the better.

But this isn’t just a ‘Trapsoul 2’. Although ‘True to Self’ exploits abstract nouns in its title in a similar manner to Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ – unlike ‘Purpose’, ‘True to Self’ is actually concerned with what the title suggests it is. Throughout the project’s nineteen tracks, Tiller constantly tackles problems concerning self-authenticity, ending relationships that don’t sit with him right, attempting to sustain ones that do, and ultimately clarifying just what kind of artist he wants to be. On ‘Before You Judge’, he’s as poignant and self-critical as a young Marshall Mathers: ‘So many times I second guessed myself I never wanted to be an artist nahh / I don’t wanna be the centre of attention but I guess I do this shit for lil’ Harley nahh / If you know me you know I just wanna be able to walk inna Target and people not be astonished / man let me do my shopping / but this is my job I asked for it I got it let’s goo’.

Above all, ‘True to Self’, demonstrates Bryson Tiller as robotically consistent, and perhaps the next great hip-hop/R&B amphibian – and we could definitely do with some more of them.


Future – ‘HNDRXX’ (Review)

Epic (2017)

I don’t want to seem like a yes-man, but Future’s not putting a foot wrong; ‘HNDRXX’ is gorgeous, a hallucinatory pop/trap/R&B whirlwind that balances pleasure and pain – even innocence and arrogance like they’re the same damn thing. Well, innocence might be a little too strong (we’re talking about a guy who kicked off his last project with, ‘Your baby mama fuck me better when the rent’s due’). Nevertheless, this thing dazzles. ‘HNDRXX’ trades in the unadulterated, head-bopping grit of ‘FUTURE’ for falsetto-led victory laps, decadent anecdotes and heartfelt confessions – bathing them in the melodic warmth of R&B instrumentation from a variety of eras.

I shouldn’t really have to fill you in on Future’s last album, I mean, it dropped last week for fuck sake. Anyway, it turned out to be the best version of what, I imagine, we all expected: a Super Future trapathon. Everything about it was relentless, and I suppose, in some ways, conclusive. He could have left it there. Alas, that’s really not his style; a follow-up was announced. Despite the fact that ‘FUTURE’ managed to colour inside the lines of his well-recognised formula and still keep things interesting, a further seventeen tracks of pure bass and bravado may have triggered some thumb-twiddling. So, a change of pace was pretty essential.

Full review here!

NoMBe drops the latest: ‘Young Hearts’

Self-released (2017)

Hailing from Los Angeles, NoMBe (real name: Noah McBeth) has been tucked away for a while now, honing his conceptually ambitious sound – electric soul. Fusing together the slow, evocative whispers of indie folk, Noah 40 Shebib’s feather-light drums and a plethora of jazzy guitar riffs – NoMBe’s been marching all over the musical map to bring you these psychedelic love ballads.

What’s more, he plans on drip-feeding these tracks – one-by-one, each month – until his debut album, ‘They Might’ve Even Loved Me’, appears as a fully-formed playlist on his SoundCloud feed. A novel move, and perhaps an ingenious way to combat the average fan’s impossibly short attention span. Either way, he’s making some beautiful music.

The album’s second track, ‘Young Hearts’, just hit SoundCloud recently. A smouldering cut concerning adolescence, and, in particular – an adolescent’s inability to reconcile the emotional with the rational. Here’s NoMBe’s personal, and very lucid, take on the track:

‘Like the rest of us, the first time I was in love was the most pleasantly painful experience of my life. There was no point of reference for how to cope. When you are truly obsessed with another human, you are convinced that you have everything to offer to this significant one, but can only marinate in confusion over the fact that she (or he) just isn’t able to see it. You may want to die for this person, you may want to abandon everything. This may even seem plausible in that given moment because you simply can’t fathom life without them. This feeling evolves over time and I think love becomes more complex as we get older. Young Hearts is dedicated to that unadulterated feeling (pun intended) that we only get once. Raw, uncontrolled and unexpected.’

The vocals, although minimal, convey a real longing; the gentle knock of the wooden snare is extremely satisfying; and the core, tropical house-like melody that drives the track manages to embody the oxymoron written by NoMBe himself: ‘pleasantly painful’.

Go listen below or watch the video above and stay tuned for next month’s!

Check the link here!

6LACK Interview: ‘Free 6LACk’ and More

LoveRenaissance (2016)

6LACK’s not the loudest artist in the world – he’d rather let his music do the talking. For artists like 6LACK, focusing on this avenue of expression isn’t just useful, it’s necessary; it can offer more emotionally than it does financially, and that statement is by no means trivial. Luckily for me, however, I was able to hear the other side of the story.

Full story and interview on Nation of Billions!

Post Malone – Stoney (Review)

Republic (2016)

Post Malone’s breakout track, ‘White Iverson’, is still different things to different people; to some – a bit of a joke, and to others – the best song of 2015. You could probably find solid arguments in both camps, but regardless of your view on Post Malone, he’s done his fair share of internet/heart/rule-breaking since his emergence into public consciousness. He continues this streak with his debut album, ‘Stoney’, which pops when it works – and flops when it doesn’t.

Check the full review here.

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (Review)

Epic / SME (2016)

It’s been eighteen long years since A Tribe Called Quest released an album (‘The Love Movement’), however, their latest offering, ‘We Got it From Here’, makes it abundantly clear that the spaced-out jazz-rap aficionados still know how to kick it. Despite sticking to their rock-steady blueprint of pensive rhymes and groovy soundscapes, the contextual poignancy of Phife Dawg’s death and the volatility of the American political landscape imbue ‘WGIFH’ with an urgency unlike any other Tribe LP.

With that in mind, ‘WGIFH’ plays like a funky self-help audiobook for the post-electoral apocalypse and beyond; causes for concern and celebration are well balanced, demonstrating that the Tribe’s verbal proficiency is one that transcends age.

Full Review on Nation of Billions.

NEW VIDEO: Drake Feat. 21 Savage – “Sneakin'”

OVO (2016)

Not too long ago now, Drake blessed us with a few tracks from his abruptly announced project ‘More Life’ – a diligently selected bunch of cuts aimed to satisfy each and every member of his pregnant fan-base.

There was one for the pop lovers (‘Fake Love’); one for the Noah 40 lovers (‘Two Birds, One Stone’); one to keep the UK interested (‘Wanna Know Remix’); and finally – one for the trap lovers (‘Sneakin’ Feat. 21 Savage’). If you love the bass and the bravado – then you’re in luck: Drake just dropped new visuals for ‘Sneakin’.

It’s like 2015 all over again: Future drops a formidable string of tapes, then Drake jumps on ‘Where Ya At’ – delivering his greatest codeine-fuelled Future impression. Similarly, this year, Savage has been on a bit of a hot-streak; no prizes for guessing Drake’s next move.

Anyway, in line with London On Da Track’s sinister synths, Drizzy provides some dark, grainy visuals for ‘Sneakin’. Whether the pair are brandishing jewellery and cups of codeine by a Rolls Royce, or serenading (if you can call it that?) video-vixens in a cavernous pool – the overall effect is chilling.

Link to article and video here.