Big Sean & Jhené Aiko – TWENTY88
Announced early last week before dropping April 1st, TWENTY88 is the debut collaborative project from long time friends Big Sean and Jhené Aiko. Described as “90s R&B and 70s experimental rock/soul” mixed with “neo-soul, ambient beats, and trap drums,” TWENTY88 is a terrific release, taking its name from Sean and Aiko’s birthdays, with both being born in 1988 and having turned 28 last month.
TWENTY88 is a concept EP following two people’s journey through the trials and tribulations of a highly emotional relationship. Sean and Aiko explore their perspectives on what they want and need from their partner (On The Way), through to their physical needs sexual desires (Push It and the K-Ci & JoJo featuring 2 Minute Warning).
The chemistry between Sean and Aiko is utter magic. Sean’s smooth flow and always personal lyrics, paired with Akio’s hypnotic vocals, intertwine like lovers lying in bed on a lazy Sunday morning. While the two claim to be just friends, it’s hard to believe they haven’t shared a moment when listening to TWENTY88.
As with any relationship, it’s not all good, with Sean and Aiko describing the low points on Selfish and the reminiscing about their time together on the penultimate Memories Faded. Final track, London Bridge, finds Sean and Aiko reconnecting and rebuilding their relationship, using the historical collapse of the London Bridge as a metaphor for their situation.
Verdict: The chemistry these two share is plain to hear, making TWENTY88 a must listen.
Royce Da 5’9″ – Tabernacle: Trust The Shooter
Few rappers are as criminally underrated as Detroit legend Royce Da 5’9″. While overshadowed by good friend Eminem during the early part of his career, his solo work and recent output with Slaughterhouse and DJ Premier (as PRhyme) has helped Royce cultivate a reputation as one of hip-hops best lyricists. As a prelude to his forthcoming sixth solo album, Layers, Royce has released mixtape, Tabernacle: Trust The Shooter, only heightening the excitement for his new album.
Across the 12 tracks, Nickel Nine’s joined by Smoke DZA, Westside Gunn, Sytles P and more, with production handled by DJ Premier, Mr Porter and Araabmuzik. Singles Savages and Dead Presidents Heads are great introductions to Royce’s rapid fire flow, with Royce dropping bars full of metaphors and witty lines for almost seven minutes on Dead President’s Heads. Royce flexes his braggadocio on Rap On Steroids with Black Thought and takes aim at rappers trading the culture for fame on Which Is Cool.
Now almost 40, Royce has matured as both a writer and a human, with the tape’s best moments concerning Royce’s personal accounts and real life experiences and situations. The DJ Premier and AntMan Wonder produced Black History begins with Royce discussing his troubled birth, before going on to heap praise on Gang Starr and let the haters know he’s not trying to replace Guru, but it’s the storytelling weaved throughout Tabernacle that may be Royce’s best effort yet. Tabernacle recalls the day Royce believes defined his life: December 29 , 1997. On this fateful day his son was born, his grandmother passed away and he met future collaborator and good friend Eminem. It’s a masterclass in wordplay, packed with emotional depth, relatable lyrics and Royce’s trademark flow.
Verdict: Further proof Royce is one of the modern greats.
Brockhampton – All-American Trash
Texas collective Brockhampton consider themselves an “all American Boyband,” but for all intents and purposes, are a talented and eclectic assortment of artists making experimental rap music. Featuring a ensemble of creative musicians, graphic designers, producers and videographers, Brockhampton’s debut mixtape, All-American Trash, is an innovate blurring of genres that Internet rap fans will no doubt eat up.
Interestingly, the most well known member of Brockhampton, Kevin Abstract doesn’t hog the spotlight, with members Matt Champion, Ameer Van, Joba, Poofie and Merlyn Wood all sharing vocal and production duties as a cohesive unit. All-American Trash covers everything from Odd Future-like rap (Ben Carson), acoustic pop (Contacts), garage (Michigan), smooth R&B (Home, Palace) right through to trap (Flip Mo). What’s more remarkable is how this jumble of genres works well to combine Brockhampton’s influences without feeling disjointed.
Although all members shine, special mention must go to Abstract, another underrated lyricists who never fails to deliver the goods.
Verdict: If you like Odd Future, Brockhampton are your new favourite act.