On “Lost Souls,” from his new mixtape, Beware the Book of Eli, the South Florida rapper Ski Mask the Slump God draws from the sinister side of Greek mythology. “I’mma drown a nigga in a river of lost souls,” he spits over the track’s foreboding beat, threatening to extinguish his enemies in the fabled tributary of the afterlife. Call Ski Mask the hip-hop Hades—king of the underworld and the dead, god of wealth, making songs that could soundtrack the valley of directionless spirits. This is murderous, netherworld music that you can throw up your jewels and smoke a blunt to.
Promoting the movie Spring Breakers, Selena Gomez struck down the same question over and over again like a zombie hunter swathing away swarms of the undead.
It opens with handwritten text sloppily scrawled over a pitch-black screen. This title reads: This is America. Who could encapsulate such a nation in the doomed year of 2018? Enter Childish Gambino, aka actor-musician-director Donald Glover, who in a 244-second rap video encapsulates the racial prejudice, police brutality and gun lust lacerating the flesh and chilling the soul of the good ol’ U S of A.
My favourite type of electronica will always be the kind that depicts savage human emotions in a way that just can’t be captured through more organic forms of expression. When it hits the right notes, the human voice strikes the outer reaches of your soul, but electronic music can sound like 10,000 brain processes firing at once. It has the ability to encapsulate the complexities of this thing we call sentience. All while making you trip out and gyrate to the fierce movement of the beats.
You probably won’t find jazz virtuoso Jef Gilson’s photograph on a Parisian postcard. His portrait isn’t likely to be hanging up in the cafés of the city Ville Lumière. France has produced a galaxy of 20th century musical stars—from Édith Piaf, to Serge Gainsbourg, to Daft Punk—but Gilson died in 2012 having never seen his reputation elevated to the same status. The universe can sometimes conspire to deny genius the recognition it deserves.
Over two hours and 59 minutes, Spotify crystallises the fresh Irish rhythms currently bumping beneath the nation’s concrete pavements and in subterranean clubs and venues. Just in time for St Patrick’s Day, the streaming service unveiled a lengthy playlist of recent rap, grime, soul and alternative R&B. The New Éire is what Spotify dubbed it. “The new generation of urban sounds representing the Emerald Isle.” Here’s a musical revolution rarely televised but coming through clear as diamond on modern day digital transmitters.
You can trust Robert Glasper to honor your favorite throwback sounds. He’s the cool custodian of old-school grooves who, with his band, the Robert Glasper Experiment, has built a flourishing career out of reinterpreting African-American music history, bridging jazz, soul, R&B, and hip-hop. The two installments of his guest-heavy Black Radio series in 2012-2013 and 2016’s Artscience all flowed like curated mixtapes of the finest vintage. On The Artscience Remixes, the keyboardist and producer probes another vital form of Black musical expression: the remix.
Accessing the 3Arena’s backstage area is like trying to gain entry to The Wizard of Oz’s Emerald City. Stand in front of the imposing metal gates on North Wall Quay and the top of the building resembles a kind of futuristic skyline that twinkles and glistens. This is where I’m perched, waiting for the equivalent of Oz’s Guardian of the Gates to grant me entry. Deep inside the building’s catacombs is the man that I’ve journeyed to see: Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, a fabled wizard of modern indie rock.
At what age does the average person’s motivation to explore new sounds freeze in time? I’m talking about the point when a certain strand of listeners abandon their quest to find fashionable styles and sag comfortably into old music like it’s their favourite livingroom chair. Is it around the time you suddenly start thinking about a pension? When the creche run becomes the school run? That moment you realise music is no longer the soundtrack for wilding out at parties and more something to alleviate stress as you sit in traffic and settle into your own personal capitalist grind?
Nostalgia is a powerful force. That’s why pop’s harnessing of nostalgia is a habit some of its stars love to indulge in. A surefire sign you’ve crossed the threshold into full-on adulthood is when the music you spun in your youth becomes retro. It’s happening right now to kids who came up in the 1990s and even early 2000s. Those slim-case CD singles picked up in antiquated Virgin Megastores are now buttered in sentimentality, with the songs themselves offering creative octane to a whole new generation of artists.
You probably know Bishop Nehru as the promising protégé to MF DOOM’s sinister sensei. He’s that New York kid with the looping flows, internal rhyme patterns, and taste for vintage East Coast beats that caught the ear of the masked supervillain. But hip-hop history teaches us that you rely on DOOM at your peril. With his mentor mostly off the grid since the release of NehruvianDOOM, their undercooked 2014 collaboration, Bishop has been searching for new direction.
Stick closely to Chuck Strangers and you just might spy him in a vintage Coogi sweater. That is to say, the 26-year-old rapper and producer cares not one whit for modern trends, swaddling himself instead in the spirit of New York’s golden age hip-hop gods. Emerging as part of Pro Era, a clique of boom-bap beatniks too young to have truly experienced that era, he filed in behind Joey Bada$$ on his breakthrough 2012 mixtape, 1999.
Sitting in a homely bistro on Malcolm X Boulevard, music journalist Greg Tate is bundled up in a peaked beanie, bright yellow scarf, and plenty of padded layers. His threads offer protection from the chill setting down on the Harlem streets outside, streets that have offered a home to a galaxy of Black American icons—from Duke Ellington to Cam’ron—across the last century. When a little-known mixtape track by local rapper Vado starts to pour out of the speakers, Tate breaks from his salmon salad to shake from side to side.
How awash I felt with patriotism the first time I spun Wyvern Lingo’s smoothly bumpin’ self-titled debut record. The Bray band unleash a sleek and scintillating sound that recalls Destiny’s Child, Toni Braxton, En Vogue, Maxwell and a few dozen other contemporary R&B acts from the 1990s and 2000s – the artists that people of my generation absorbed everyday after school on MTV Base, a channel that at the time felt like a gift from the gods of new-age digital television.
It begins with the sound of the space-time continuum being twisted and bent. The echoing beeps and blips of Herbie Hancock’s kaleidoscopic jazz number “Rain Dance” is the soundtrack of you falling through a forbidden vortex and spiraling into another dimension. Final destination: a bizarro version of New York City. Your guides: hip-hop hippies Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira, and Craig “Doodlebug” Irving.