9 Jun 2015

2015 - The Year of Hip Hop?

I remember seeing a tweet in November of last year which made a list of hip hop artists that would be releasing albums in 2015. Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Kanye West, A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar were just a few listed and now that we're half way through the year I thought I'd give a little run down on what hip hop has brought us so far this year. 

First of all Kanye slyly released the single Only One ft Paul McCartney at midnight on New Years Day and it set the bar stupidly high for everyone else to follow. Joey Bada$$ then dropped his debut album later that month and has been compared to Nas' Illmatic. With his effortless flow and lyrics about real life I can understand the comparisons, but Nas is Nas for a reason. He's untouchable.

As the year has gone on we've had albums from Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. Both have completely different sounds and it's clearly evident that the both of them have taken different directions since the apparent demise of OFWGKTA. The majority of the members have gone their separate ways with no features of any Odd Future members on Cherry Bomb or I Don't Like Shit I Don't Go Outside. The features on Cherry Bomb just go to show how highly regarded Tyler is in the music industry with Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Roy Ayres just a few notable contributors to Tyler's third studio album.

Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid M.A.A.D City" is arguably one of the best hip hop albums of my generation, and it's no surprise to see his latest offering To Pimp A Butterfly is just as good as GKMC. Whereas GKMC had more of a raw, west coast feel to it, TPAB has captured the essence of black culture. Kendrick talks about the apartheid in America, police brutality by referencing Trayvon Martin in The Blacker The Berry and being institutionalised by the ghettos of Compton. This album really is a work of art and has put Kendrick up there with the greatest of our generation and I truly believe he's just one more strong album away from being considered one of the greatest of all time.

Action Bronson also dropped his debut album this year. With previous works such as Blue Chips 2 and Saab Stories being so popular it really is a surprise that Mr Wonderful is his first actual studio album. Bronson brings a new element to rap with Mr Wonderful, with raps about food, expensive furniture and German guitar riffs. With features from Chance The Rapper and Meyhem Lauren along with production from big names such as Mark Ronson and Zane Lowe, the success that this album brings Bronson is truly deserved.

2015 did not begin well for A$AP Rocky with the death of his best friend and A$AP Mob founder A$AP Yams. Yams died from a drugs overdose in January whilst Rocky was working on his new album, and you can tell the effect Yams' death has had on Rocky just by listening to the new album At Long Last Asap. Rocky cited influences from people such as The Doors and Rod Stewart for this album and even has a feature from Stewart himself on the track Everyday. The album is a lot different to his previous work but nonetheless is a solid offering of gritty hip hop, mellow infusions of rock and roll and is a great tribute to A$AP Yams. Featured on the album are heavyweights such as Mos Def, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Schoolboy Q.

If You're Reading This It's Too Late was also released by Drake as a surprise. In my eyes this is Drake's best work thus far. I know a lot of people see him as a bit of a sap but this album really shows off his credibility as a hip hop artist. Know Yourself is an absolute banger and he recently played it in his hometown for the first time, and the video for that gave me actual goosebumps. The album has features from Lil Wayne, Travi$ Scott and PARTYNEXTDOOR. If this was just a teaser for a real studio album then I'm excited for Drake's next offering.

So with all that being said - what's next for hip hop? Well we've got Kanye's album still to arrive. At first it was to be called So Help Me God but Ye has had a change of heart and it's new name will be Swish. After debuting All Day at The Brit Awards, Ye has also released Wolves ft Vic Mensa and there's been rumours of Mr West spending time in the studio with Will Smith. How awesome would that be? A Will Smith and Kanye West track? It's what dreams are made of!

We've also got The Documentary 2 still to drop from The Game. In true Game fashion, he has name dropped like hell and has said that Dr Dre, Kanye and Timbaland will all be a part of production on this album. If The Documentary 2 is anything like the first Documentary we're in for a real treat of raw, West Coast hip hop.

Whilst seeing Nas at Parklife he also mentioned that he's working on a new album. After Life Is Good was released in 2012, Nas has since gone quiet. If there's one thing for sure, Nas will deliver ungodly flows with intelligent lyrics with some of the hottest production. There's a reason why he's regarded as the greatest of all time.

It's only June and we've been treated to all of this already? Roll on the next six months I say!

Parklife 2015

After seeing the lineup for this years Parklife, I owed it to myself to go. How many other chances would I get to see Wu Tang Clan AND Nas all within the space of two days? So last Friday I decided to take the pilgrimage to hip hop mecca - Manchester (for that weekend anyway!)

I don't want to bore you with stories about how I spent most of the weekend dancing in my hotel room or moaning about how windy it was on Saturday so I'll just tell you who I saw. First of all it was Wu Tang. Now, don't get me wrong Wu Tang are big in the game. Huge in fact. But I feel slightly mugged off when Wu Tang get booked for an appearance and Raekwon, Method Man or RZA don't turn up. I know they've done it in the past but I thought the fact that they released an album at the end of last year and that they've toured the rest of the UK this month would mean that they'd make the effort. Having said that, the performance was good. But I constantly found myself thinking that they just couldn't be arsed. But hey ho better was to come.

I also got to see Mr Wonderful himself: Action Bronson. This guy is an absolute hip hop heavyweight, physically and metaphorically. He played a mix of stuff from his new album as well as stuff from Blue Chips 2 and Saab Stories and the crowd went off. Meyhem Lauren joined BamBam on stage for a couple of songs which was awesome.

The cherry on top for the whole weekend though was seeing Nas. Hands down the best rap performance I've seen live. I've seen Snoop Dogg, Eminem, J Cole and a lot more, but to see Illmatic played in its entirety was an absolute privilege. He interacted well with the crowd and seemed soooooo humble. Bearing in mind that Nas is widely regarded as the best rapper of all time he introduced himself to the crowd by saying "For those of you who don't know who I am, I'm Nas." I'm pretty sure that was unnecessary but showed a rare, humble side you don't see in rappers these days. 

Next up Reading Festival in August!