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2022 has undoubtedly been a fantastic year for Hip-Hop/Rap. Great releases from artists like Kendrick Lamar, Denzel Curry, Saba, Freddie Gibs, Conway the Machine, LUCKI (I did not like his album, but who am I right?), and Black Thought have dominated the rap scene this year. It is damn near impossible to crown any of these men the prestigious “Rap Album of the Year” award. But for those who don’t know, I correctly predicted Jazmine Sullivan’s 2021 Grammy win for “R&B Album of the Year,” and now that I’m rightfully cocky about my foresight, I’d like to try my hand again at another Grammy prediction.
In the spirit of Black History Month, I’d like to tell you all a joke: if you’re cheese with no crackers, what are you? Answer: crackalackin! As your thunderous laughter decrescendos, I hope you hear me when I say; I am not a comedian (yes yes, you’ve caught me lackin). Unlike the Dave Chapelle’s and Wanda Sykes's of the world, my jokes are corny and stolen (shoutout KevOnStage)一 however, all I hope to do is make you laugh, and until then, I will keep crackin’ jokes. If, for some odd and illegitimate reason, you don’t like my jokes, then you might enjoy those of Wild N’ Out’s own Karlous Miller, Chico Bean, and DC YoungFly: the co-hosts of the 85 South Show.
Hello Hello! This is the first installment of a new series I will be writing for BP called the “Weekly Round-Up.” Each week, I will be discussing my favorite releases across a variety of musical genres. Though these songs will be of different genres, what connects them all is the color of the artist’s skin (blackity black y’all!). With this series, I hope to expose Black and non-Black students to the music of Black musicians across many genres. Not only is this an opportunity for me to discover Black music, but for you to engage with music they may otherwise have. I hope you can join me on this journey through Black music! For week one, I will be reviewing my favorite releases since the beginning of the academic year. No specific genre is attached to these songs, however, most of them are R&B or incorporate R&B aesthetics.
As the rap game oscillates between lyrical professionalism and Tik-Tok meme-ability, a balance must be met for the rap game to continue on a steady path upward. Unfortunately, many young rap artists are leaning more towards Tik-Tok meme-ability, creating music that hovers above adolescent insecurities and just below outright stupidity. Let me be clear: RAP IS NOT TIK TOK. Rap is an extension of the Black community that, though it should be shared by all, does not belong to all. When rappers feed into the money-making machine that is Tik-Tok, they voluntarily give ownership to a community that fails to understand the diasporic energies that permeate the genre. It is then refreshing when a young artist like Baby Keem takes initiative and attempts to blend the new generation of rap with rap originalism. The Melodic Blue, the debut studio album from the California-born artist invents a space where witty lyricism, over-accentuated autotune, and Tik-Tok-made 808s can exist together. With no shortage of radio-made hits, neo-R&B arrangements, trap beats, and Pan-African beats, The Melodic Blue is a medley of experimentation the rap game so desperately needed. With so many young rap artists sounding the same, I find relief in listening to something, anything, that’s a little different.
At the 63rd presentation of the Grammys, Silk Sonic - a newly founded, neo-soul, R&B funk group composed of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak - lit up the stage with their debut performance of “Leave the Door Open”. A smooth, sensual take on 1970s Funk, “Leave the Door Open” captures the essence of black love in an expressingly braggadocious, yet thoughtful fashion. The harmonies are reminiscent of the Isley Brothers - low, soft background vocals floating atop simple drum progressions matched with tenderly soaked tenor vocals. More than paying homage to Black music during the 1970s, “Leave the Door Open” paves the way for artists searching for ways to incorporate Motown and Funk into their discography. Silk Sonic’s Sankofarration ( “It is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.”) of 1970s music and style is not - unfortunately - unique. Modern trends have been moving backwards - best said by Virgl Abloh, “I think that like we’re gonna hit this like, really awesome state of expressing your knowledge and personal style with vintage – there are so many clothes that are cool that are in vintage shops and it’s just about wearing them.” Digging deep into the closet, Bruno and Anderson have found exactly what they’ve been looking for: a sound and style situated in the 1970s yet unquestionably modern and absolutely themselves. With “Leave the Door Open”, Silk Sonic has begun its contribution to this “vintage” trend. With the release of Silk Sonic’s debut album just over the horizon, one can only wonder: can this get any better?