Saba — LIFE

For your Friday afternoon and weekend listening, one of the most confessional tracks you will hear all year — off of the most arresting, raw records to come out in 2018. And, one of my absolute top listens this year.

Saba Care For Me

Released in April, Saba’s second full-length record CARE FOR ME is chock full of rapid-fire, deeply personal, introspective and harrowing lyrics. Driven (subconsciously according to Saba) by his emotions following the 2017 murder of his cousin John Walt , Saba bluntly takes on themes of the grief, violence, and inequities of the inner-city Black experience, but also family arguments about his pursuit of hip-hop, spats with girlfriends, childhood memories linked and interwoven with his current day-to-day, bracingly honest statements of male insecurity, and one of the better articulations you’ll hear on the catharsis of writing and artistic release.

“I don’t tell the truth so y’all will feel sorry for me…. / Write it away, write it away / I just got tired of running away, running away / Everyone leaving, I write ’em away, write ’em away / Calligraphy”

~Calligraphy

Saba packs all of this content into rhymes that are tight and clipped, backed by spare, woozy beats.  This is narrative, confessional music — not just rap — at its finest. The record is worth listening to in full (over and over again), but the single LIFE is a stand-out for me.

Masego — Lady Lady

Masego is a a new discovery for me and this is a really fresh track as his debut full-length album Lady Lady drops today. The same-titled single was one of the record’s pre-releases and it stopped me cold on my first listen.

Masego is a chameleon. A Jamaica-born, Virginia-raised, self-taught saxophonist, pianist, singer, and producer work across musical genres and blending music, fashion, and visual arts. Dude’s got style and swagger for days. And, the musicianship to back it all up.

He coined a phrase “traphousejazz” to describe his own music. For sure the jazz part of that, but I hear as much/more classic soul, 80s’ vintage pop R&B, and 90s’ era Tribe Called Quest hip-hop. I mean, the album cover — with the cursive font and crushed velvet curtains alone — pays direct homage to Michael Jackson and Prince.

masego-lady-lady-album

I was also struck by the way this track channels Fela Kuti’s Lady. Not so much of the AfroFunk musical style; Masego is smoother and less gritty. But, the songs feel similar in their titles, themes, lyrics, syncopation, and saxophones.

Welcome to your weekend, people. Make it sexy.

Black Thought – Twofifteen

When Black Thought dropped his EP Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 last Friday — his first side project outside of fronting The Roots for nearly 30 (!) years — there was just no doubt I’d be featuring it this week.

streams-of-thought

And, I’m not even going to write much of an introduction. I don’t feel like adding context about the artist or giving a nod to the backing production or digging into the emotive content.

I just want you to do what I’ve been doing all week — kicking back and letting Black Thought’s seamless, hookless, break-neck rhymes envelop me.

This track is pure fire.

Henry Canyons – Not Today

It’s Henry Canyons week for me.

On Tuesday, I posted an album feature and interview I did with Henry on Where the Music Meets — a cool online music magazine I’m writing for. Today, here in my own space, I really wanted to feature my favorite track off his latest record, Cool Side of the Pillow.

Quick aside: If you didn’t see or haven’t yet checked out the WtMM interview, the time to get on that shit is NOW! Kidding (sort of).

In all seriousness, it’s a cool read. Henry was really thoughtful and candid. We covered ground about his musical background and influences; his journey with this new record; the lightbulb moment smoking weed and listening to old-school rap as a teenager in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park when he thought, “I can do this.”; the respect, intention, and awareness he carries of being a white artist in a black art form; and his bottom-line love of rap music. 

I’ve previously written admiringly about Henry’s flow, his voice and vocals, the tight production that backs his records, and his bringing together of jazz, East Coast ciphers, and West Coast R&B/funk vibes.

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Photo credit: http://www.lensesthroughlenses.com // @mr.mcfeely

But, listening to Not Today (as I have been repeatedly since the record dropped in mid-April), I am always struck most by the lyrics. Listening deeply and digging into the dope rhymes and clever wordplay, the words he’s saying are authentic, real, vulnerable, and redeeming. I connect with them on such a visceral level — with things going on in my own life, thoughts in my own head, and emotions/feeling of my own heart.

It’s a god-damn empowering song. A universal call-to-action against the inner-demons we all face — self-doubt, fear, worry, anger — and a shout into that void, calling on our better natures.

Read the interview. Check out the full Cool Side album. And, for sure, rock this track when you need a lift and some steel in your spine. I’m tellin’ you….