By Thomas Johnson, April 6 2018 —
YFN Lucci – Ray Ray From Summerhill
For a long time, the best parts of YFN Lucci’s career were thanks to collaborations with hard-hitting geniuses like Takeoff and Quavo, with Lucci slinking around verses with a voice as viscous as Newtonian fluid.
Ray Ray From Summerhill is YFN Lucci’s debut album. His recent five-track EP, Freda’s Son, was released in February, providing a teaser of its sister-release — lush soul samples, hints of live instrumentations and the odd jazzy flourish to accompany Lucci’s solo style. But Ray Ray From Summerhill is as much a display of Lucci’s pen as it is his pipes.
The album writes an ernest portrait of Lucci understanding his burgeoning presence in an unstable market. In fact, it reads almost like a manifesto of his conceptions of manhood and its accompanying responsibilities. “We all know you can’t get too comfortable,” he reminds himself near the end of Ray Ray From Summerhill. Stardom is fickle and fleeting but, for now, Lucci ensures he’s part of the show.
Preoccupations – New Material
New Material opens with Mike Wallace swiftly striking his drum kit in what sounds like an empty hangar. Its minimalism and simplicity is uncomfortable, cold and uninviting. Preoccupations’s third album — the second since the Calgary band’s name change — is described by frontman Matt Flegel as an “ode to depression.” Their music has strongly ascribed to Joy Division’s monochrome outlook, a perspective doomed to define the washed-out nature of post-punk. In that vein, New Material is the band’s least cryptic work. It’s standoffish in its gloom and decisive pessimism.
Lyrically, Flegel’s neuroticism and paranoia echo Ian Curtis accordingly. His observations — “Falling in and out of line / I don’t understand what everybody’s waiting for” — are often as terrifying as his imagery — “Wide-eyed / This is where we decompose / Through rivers of radiation.” A song aptly titled “Disarray,” the band says, is their idea of a positive song.
Though it’s by no means an album that should be played strictly front-to-back, New Material still benefits from a linear listen. The anxiety flows from one track to the next and the product is as cohesive as it is unnerving. The dissonance builds to the instrumental finale “Compliance,” which is both hideous and hypnotic, mounting to a colossal lurch only to dissipate in seconds.
Rich Homie Quan – Rich as in Spirit
Outkast was a duo that truly succeeded on the cosmic fringes because of their combined mack attitude. Big Boi kept Andre 3000 in check and ensured the music didn’t venture too far into any inaccessible cosmos. Rich Gang, arguably the closest current equivalent to Outkast, was built on a similar fraternity. Young Thug took off because he possesses an intangible cool like Andre before him. But Quan was crucial to Rich Gang’s success and there’s a not-so-small argument that Quan is actually the better MC.
It may throw you for a loop that Rich as in Spirit is Rich Homie Quan’s debut album, considering his first mixtape was released back in 2012. Frankly, it may be that in the wake of Young Thug’s blazing ascent to stardom, Quan missed his window. That doesn’t change the fact that half a decade removed from his peak, he’s making the best music of his career. Rich as in Spirit builds off the fundamentals Quan reapplied last year in the underrated Back to the Basics. While it’s upsetting that he may never get the recognition he rightfully deserves, it’s heartening to know Quan can still forge undeniably beautiful hip-hop and that he will never, under any circumstance, ever stop going in.
Home Grown (Inner Oceans Records)
For the uninitiated, Inner Oceans Records (IOR) is a Calgary-based record label fighting the good fight. The Gauntlet ran a primer last summer but here’s the short of it: IOR specializes in lo-fi electronic and hip-hop, curating albums and playlists from artists around the globe, making an emphasis of printing each release into a tangible product, be it cassette or vinyl or merch. Their roster currently houses 26 independent acts, seven of whom received physical LP releases in 2017.
Home Grown is the latest release by IOR and continues their championing of music at its grassiest roots. A celebration of the “home-producer,” the talent in Home Grown is chosen by IOR and popular lo-fi curator STEEZYASFUCK, showcasing the talent of 15 producers whose aesthetics range from Brian Eno on Pineapple Express to acolytes of J Dilla. The mood is at ease throughout and would accompany a coffee and a cigarette as well as it would match a beer and a joint. Particular highlights are the Nintendo 64-era sampling on evee’s “Wonderland,” the ecstatic saxophone and heavenly sample on RudeManners’s “Flow” or the gentle gurgle of Idealism’s pillowy “Evenings.” Inner Oceans Records even commissioned an original painting by Ivan Merlin for the cover art. There’s nothing not to love.